It's no secret the Falcons play well at home.
This is the case for a handful of teams, if only for the obvious advantages it offers. The noise makes it harder for opposing offenses to communicate and for their quarterbacks to call audibles at the line. A hostile environment will also limit what a team can do with regards to no-huddle offenses and the snap count (many will resort to a silent count, making it easier for defensive linemen to get a good jump).
And, of course, it never hurts having 70,000 rabid fans at your back.
The Falcons (1-2) go into this week's Sunday Night matchup as slim 1-point favorites and will need every one of those voices this weekend when the undefeated Patriots come to town. But even with injuries abound in Atlanta, there's reason to be hopeful that Mike Smith can get his team back on track if history is any good indicator.
Why? I already said it: the Falcons are nearly unstoppable on their home turf.
Home records under Mike Smith and Matt Ryan:
Remembering last season, the lone home loss came against the Bucs in week 17 after Atlanta had already locked up home-field advantage for the playoffs. The year before that, the only defeats were to the Packers (14-25) and another to the pesky Saints in overtime.
In fact, only two teams (the Patriots with 36 wins and the Ravens with 35) have more home wins than the Falcons (34) dating back to 2008. Suffice it to say Smitty knows how to win in the Georgia Dome. And for an offense that perhaps hasn't lived up to expectations (yet) in 2013, Matt Ryan's performances at home only serve as a sign that improvement could be on the way this weekend.
Matty Ice Home-Road Splits:
In the Dome: 34-5 record, 65.3% completion, 9051 yards, 62 TD, 26 INT, 96 rating
Everywhere else: 23-19 record, 61.15% completion, 10825 yards, 71 TD, 36 INT, 87.7 rating
If anything, the numbers speak to how much more the Falcons prefer the methodical, balanced no-huddle offense they tend to run at home. The win-loss records speak to its success, too. Ryan is more efficient, makes fewer mistakes and better sets the team up for victory.
As far as the Patriots go, Ryan has only faced the New England Evil Hoodies once before in his career (a 26-10 loss in 2009), and it was far from his best performance (17 of 28 passing for 199 yards). But for context, Michael Jenkins caught five passes in that game, while Brian Finneran and Marty Booker each caught two. Times sure have changed for the better at receiver (better than we can say for the offensive line).
And yeah, the Pats do look better on defense this season, ranking 6th in pass defense and 9th in defending the run. But also consider the small sample size (Bills, Jets, Bucs). The Falcons are clearly the most dynamic offense they'll have faced thus far, and by Monday morning the nation should know if the Pats defense is for real this season.
Long story short: if I were a betting man, I'd put a couple hundred on the Falcons covering that spread this weekend. History is on Atlanta's side.