ATLANTA — Going into Week 4, the Patriots will have their most difficult test of the season against the Atlanta Falcons, who sport an array of offensive weapons that could spell trouble for any respectable defense.
And the team still has improvements to make, particularly on offense.
Here’s what we’re watching in Sunday’s game:
1. How the Patriots handle Julio Jones — The explosive receiver is tied for the NFL lead in receptions (27) with Julian Edelman and leads in receiving yards (373). This is a perfect opportunity for Aqib Talib to match up with one of the best in the league. But in doing so, there are matchup problems elsewhere. Which leads me to No. 2.
2. Roddy White’s status — White has been hobbled by an ankle injury. He was limited in practice this week and is listed as questionable for today’s game. He has seven receptions this season for 56 yards, far off his normal production in a three-game span. Last season, he caught 92 balls for 1,351 yards and seven touchdowns. When healthy, he is a dangerous complement to Jones, tight end Tony Gonzalez, and third receiver Harry Douglas. But will he be anywhere near 100 percent? We’ll see.
3. Continued offensive improvement — The Patriots are currently ranked dead last in red zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns on 30.8 percent of possessions within the 20-yard line. They’ve been working on it all week, so we’ll see how much they’ve improved. But there’s also still concerns about offensive chemistry and the team’s third-down conversion rate (39.6 percent).