Get Tough Or Die

‘Get Tough Or Die' Patriots will steal win from Matt Ryan, Falcons...

Cold, Hard Football Facts Insider with Scout.com breaks down every NFL game against the spread through the prism of our 22 cutting-edge Quality Stats. CHFF Insiders have gone .500 or better ATS in 72 percent of NFL weeks since the start of 2009. CHFF Insiders with Scout.com also get access to betting trends, key prop plays (9-2 in 2013), inside interviews with Vegas bookmakers and detailed team stat profiles. Become a CHFF Insider with Scout.com today. 

New England at Atlanta (-2)

The New England Patriots motto through three weeks should be "Get Tough or Die" – a line stolen from the old Johnny Cash Song "A Boy Named Sue."

The boy named Sue quickly learned that "this world is rough and if a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough."

The same can said of the 2013 Patriots. Stripped of its high-powered offensive weapons of a year ago, New England has quickly rediscovered the tough, battle-hardened statistical DNA of its championship years.

The Get Tough or Die brand of football has yielded three low-scoring victories against rookie QBs EJ Manuel and Geno Smith and embattled vet Josh Freeman, who was benched this week in the wake of Tampa's 20-point loss to the Patriots Sunday.

The Patriots defense has looked dramatically better than in past years during this stretch, and now ranks No. 2 in scoring defense (11.3 PPG) and No. 2 in Defensive Passer Rating (58.7). Keep in mind that pass defense, best measured by Defensive Passer Rating, has been New England's statistical weak link since 2007.

It's no coincidence that the best pass defense in franchise history (56.8 DPR) was produced by arguably the best defense in franchise history in 2003.

Now comes the first "true test" for the Patriots in the eyes of most observers: a visit to Atlanta to face a talented Falcons offense led by star QB Matt Ryan.

Atlanta ranks No.1 on the Offensive Hog Index (best OL in football) and Ryan is still among the league leaders in all our measures of passing efficiency.

But the Falcons right now look far from the elite 13-3 NFC title-game contender we saw on the field last season. They lost at both New Orleans and Miami, two 3-0 teams but who were inferior to the Falcons last year, and count their only win at home against the marginal Rams – the same Rams blown out by the 49ers Thursday night.

The Falcons are still scoring points. They are +6.0 PPG offensively on the Relativity Index – which measures how well teams play offense and defense relative to the quality of their opponents. But the Atlanta defense has let them down (-3.3 PPG defensively).

You can see those defensive struggles on the Cold, Hard Football Facts Quality Stat table: the Falcons are bottom half of the league in every measure of pass defense, and not particularly stout in terms of efficiency, either: No.21 in Bendability, which quantifies the "bend but don't break" phenomenon.

Atlanta certainly boasts the best quarterback the Patriots have faced so far this season. But they also possess the worst pass defense the Patriots have faced, too. The Jets and Bucs are top 10 pass defenses and the Bills are top half.

If Tom Brady and the Patriots are going to ride the slow offensive momentum they began to build against the Bucs, the Falcons represent a surprisingly good opportunity to do so.

New England boasts advantages in efficiency and on our Intelligence Index, which measures how well teams perform in situational football. New England is No. 4 on the Intelligence Index; Atlanta No. 19. New England is also better on the Relativity Index, which measures how well teams play relativity to the quality of their opposition. New England is No. 6; Atlanta No. 14.

Put another way, this primetime game Sunday night has the statistical profile of a showdown the Patriots can steal with their rebranded Get Tough or Die style.

Pick: New England 24, Atlanta 21

Cold, Hard Football Facts Insider with Scout.com breaks down every NFL game against the spread through the prism of our 22 cutting-edge Quality Stats. CHFF Insiders have gone .500 or better ATS in 72 percent of NFL weeks since the start of 2009. CHFF Insiders with Scout.com also get access to betting trends, key prop plays (9-2 in 2013), inside interviews with Vegas bookmakers and detailed team stat profiles. Become a CHFF Insider with Scout.com today. 

 

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