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ESPN NFL Insider Scouting Report


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After breaking down film of both teams, Scouts Inc. offers 10 things to watch in this week's Falcons-Patriots matchup.

1. Atlanta needs to get its playmakers the ball: The Falcons need to continue to spread the ball around to their most dangerous targets in the passing game. Offseason acquisition Tony Gonzalez has made his presence known early this season, as the Falcons have expanded their offense to include him often. Look for Gonzalez as well as Roddy White and Jerious Norwood to see lots of balls come their way.

2. Expect a balanced Atlanta ground attack: Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey will likely try to utilize his talented backs on downhill isolation plays as well as off tackle and perimeter schemes on the edges. Michael Turner is impressive between the tackles but Norwood could see more touches with his speed and burst to stretch the Patriots' defense.

3. Atlanta must tighten up its run defense: The Falcons have won despite not defending their opponents' running attack very well. Atlanta is allowing 120 yards per game at over 5 yards per carry. The Patriots will make a concerted effort to get their ground assault on track. We may see more interior stunts and zone-run blitzes to derail the Patriots' running game.

4. Look for more pressure packages from the Falcons: Tom Brady has played somewhat average through two games as he has been under duress often in the pocket. Atlanta defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder doesn't like to use many blitz schemes, but will likely dial up a variety of pressure packages in this contest to keep the Patriots' passing attack off balance.

5. Matchup to watch -- Falcons DE John Abraham vs. Patriots OT Matt Light: This should be an excellent battle between two athletic and crafty veterans who could have a huge impact in the game. Look for Abraham to utilize his great initial quickness to rush off the edge and a variety of counters to keep Light off balance. Light is an excellent technician who will need to keep Abraham at bay for Brady to work his magic.

6. New England must run the ball effectively: The Patriots' ground attack, which has been less than impressive through two games, will likely try to set the tempo of this game. The Pats have some talented backs who might be able to wear down a Falcons defense that has been average against the run and missing first-round defensive tackle Peria Jerry.

7. New England must keep Brady clean: Brady is outstanding when he can set his feet in the pocket, but he's been somewhat uncomfortable and unable to deliver the ball consistently downfield. Look for tighter line splits and possibly an extra blocker in pass protection to keep Brady in rhythm.

8. Mix schemes up for Atlanta QB Matt Ryan: Ryan has been one of the most accurate passers in the league so far and can burn a defense when he gets in a rhythm. Look for Bill Belichick to utilize multiple schemes to force Ryan into some errant throws and keep this very solid Falcons offense off balance.

9. Patriots will be heavy on run-stopping schemes: The Patriots' defense needs to make the Falcons put the ball in the air. The success of Atlanta's offense focuses around a physical ground attack and New England will likely utilize more eight-man fronts, interior stunts and zone run blitzes to derail the physical running style of Turner.

10. Matchup to watch -- Patriots WR Randy Moss vs. Falcons CB Chris Houston: Moss has been relatively quiet thus far and was almost shut down in the Patriots' Week 2 loss to the Jets. He has an obvious size advantage on Houston, and we can look for this matchup to be exploited by New England's offensive staff.

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Another massive checklist purporting to be keys of the game with no mention of turnovers and special teams play. People get so wrapped up in the match ups these days that they continually lose sight of the big picture.

In point of fact all of those "things to watch" should be prefaced with something like: "Assuming that turnovers and big plays on the special teams roughly equal out then the outcome of the game may be determined by ..."

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Another massive checklist purporting to be keys of the game with no mention of turnovers and special teams play. People get so wrapped up in the match ups these days that they continually lose sight of the big picture.

In point of fact all of those "things to watch" should be prefaced with something like: "Assuming that turnovers and big plays on the special teams roughly equal out then the outcome of the game may be determined by ..."

If this is a rainy game, then punt coverage could easily be the deciding factor as much as anything else. I'm glad it's usually a strength for us.

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1. I would not call holding Miami and Carolina to 120 yards/game rushing a failure.

2. Fine ... stack the box all day.

3. Do your homework ... Norwood is probably not playing.

Who needs to do homework? That article was written by ESPN. I subscribe to NFL Insider, which you have to pay for. I try and post the articles that ESPN doesnt give for free. I can just as easily not post them as post them, but thats not who I am.

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