New England Patriots at Atlanta Falcons (-2.5, 48.5)
The New England Patriots were able to take advantage of some weak competition to begin the season and finally appeared to get something out of their young receiving corps last week. The Patriots and those receivers will take a big step up in competition when they visit the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday night. The Falcons are coming off a last-minute road loss to another AFC East team and are trying to even their record.
Atlanta won its first eight games en route to a 13-3 regular season in 2012 but is off to a slower start offensively this season. New England can relate to the offensive slowdown, though its issues are based more on roster turnover and injuries. The Patriots are hopeful that some of those injury concerns can be relieved this week with the impending returns of wide receiver Danny Amendola and tight end Rob Gronkowski.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC.
LINE: This game opened as a pick and is currently Falcons -2.5. The total opened at 49 and is currently 48.5.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (3-0): Amendola (groin) and Gronkowski (forearm/back) have both been limited participants in practice this week and are listed as questionable for Sunday. Quarterback Tom Brady made good use of Amendola in the season opener but is making do with rookies Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins over the last two weeks, and the two finally stepped up in a 23-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3. The offensive slowdown is putting more pressure on the defense, which is allowing an average of 11.3 points and is doing particularly well against the pass thanks to corners Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard.
ABOUT THE FALCONS (1-2): Quarterback Matt Ryan is dealing with his own banged-up receiving corps, though Julio Jones (knee) and Roddy White (high ankle sprain) have yet to miss a game. Atlanta is opening up a three-game homestand with the Patriots after suffering each of its losses on the road, including last week’s 27-23 setback at Miami in which Ryan and the offense stalled inside the Dolphins’ red zone twice in the fourth quarter. The Falcons are allowing 296 yards passing defensively but are getting strong production from end Osi Umenyiora, who was part of a unit with the New York Giants that gave Brady and the Patriots plenty of trouble in two Super Bowls.
* Patriots are 6-0 ATS in their last six games in Week 4.
* Falcons are 1-5 ATS in their last six games overall.
* Over is 4-1 in Falcons last five games overall.
* Over is 18-8 in Patriots last 26 road games.
1. Brady is second in NFL history with a passing TD in 51 straight games (Drew Brees, 54).
2. Atlanta RB Stephen Jackson (hamstring) is expected to miss the game.
3. New England starting RT Sebastian Vollmer (sprained foot) sat out practice on Wednesday and Thursday, leaving him doubtful for Sunday.