WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL
New England’s run the ball pretty effectively so far this season, particularly last week against the Bucs. There have been outlier plays that have bolstered their numbers – Brandon Bolden carrying three times for 51 yards last week – but overall, they are establishing a good identity on the ground. Expect them to stick with that in Atlanta where the Falcons have been pretty good (79 yards per game, a 3.8 average) but the teams they’ve faced – Saints, Rams, Dolphins – are disinclined to push it on the ground. The Patriots will stay with the balanced running back approach, but LeGarrette Blount may be less of a factor against a speedy Atlanta front-seven. The Falcons will be missing linebacker Sean Witherspoon all season. In the air, the Patriots simplified and had success last week. Against a Falcons secondary that’s allowing 66 percent completions and 7.56 yards per attempt to opponents, the Patriots will stay on the upswing. With another week under their belts, Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins will be making another step forward. They’ll need to because you can expect the Falcons to focus on slowing down Julian Edelman as they did last week with Dolphins No. 1 Mike Wallace (2 catches, 22 yards). Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola are looking like game-time decisions. Info I have is that Amendola’s a long shot for this week, more likely for Cincy. The return of Gronk will help in various ways, one of which is possibly opening things up for Zach Sudfeld to begin making an impact in two tight end sets. The position has been mostly ignored by Brady in the passing game. Finally, Brady coming off a poor performance is a beast and last week qualified. If defensive coordinator Mike Nolan wants to try and blitz Brady – not an unreasonable idea given the sight adjustments and hot routes his young receivers would be consigned to running – I’d still say advantage Brady. Rookie Desmond Trufant mans one corner and the aging but still dangerous Asante Samuel is on the other. Safety Thomas DeCoud is pretty good.