There wasn't much nail biting or concern in this last win (Bucs), it didn't go too far off script from what I was expecting to see them do to put the game away. I was confident they would have another win at halftime.
As I expected. and wrote in my analysis of the game a couple days back... once the Patriots got up by a couple of scores, the Bucs' Offense essentially checked out, and then the Buc's defense in turn took their foot off the gas.
The rookies are progressing, and other key players are returning to health (Bolden) and should be factors in the weeks ahead (Gronk, Amendola)... the offense as a whole is improving.
The Falcons are the next team up, and for the first time this season the Patriots' Defense will be tested by a very good veteran QB that has the weapons to put a lot of points on the board quickly.
Atlanta is far from perfect however, and their season is already looking grim as they are sitting at 1-2 with teams like the Packers, Seahawks, 49ers and Saints still on their schedule... they will be coming into this game feeling a lot of pressure not to be 1-3. I would expect them to come into this game with an intensity the Patriots have not faced yet this season, one born out of a sense of urgency.
The Patriots have a lot of young players on the roster, and they will have to fight any sense of accomplishment or complacency that being 3-0 might give them, because unlike the Bucs, the Falcons will not pack it in if they get down by a couple scores, they will do the opposite, and play with even more intensity.
The Falcons will give them a full 60 minutes of all out effort, and they will likely take risks, and run plays they wouldn't if they were sitting at 3-0... desperate times calls for desperate measures, or at least trying the trick play and gambling on the long bomb when conventional wisdom calls for run up the middle.
This game will be impacted as much by who is healthy and who is not, as anything else. I think we all know what a boost the offense would get if both Gronk and Amendola returned for the game (not that I have any idea at all if they will or not)... but there is no doubt just their presence on the football field would make a huge impact on how the Falcons' defense would rotate coverage and attack.
And the Falcons have a few players of their own that may or may not recover from injury in time for this game, Robert McClain, Asante Samuel, Sam Baker, and Steven Jackson, their absence only helps the Patriots' chances.
A slight advantage for the Falcons will be that they are playing at home, the Falcons are a dome team, and typically dome teams don't fair as well in the outdoors as they do in near perfect dome conditions. If this game were in Foxboro I would be feeling more chippy about it.
Ten days ago, I would have only given them a 'punchers chance' of defeating the Falcons, now I'll say they still have a tough match-up, but almost even odds of winning the game.