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Preview: Houston at Atlanta

When: 1:00 PM ET, Sunday, October 4, 2015
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia

The Atlanta Falcons look for their second 4-0 start in four years when they host the Houston Texans on Sunday. The Falcons could stand to win with a bit more ease, though, after becoming the first team in NFL history to capture their first three games after trailing in the fourth quarter of each.

The Texans haven’t had as much luck in close games, losing their first two contests by seven points apiece before closing out a 19-9 win over Tampa Bay last week. Atlanta’s hot start has been built on the strength of its high-powered passing game led by Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, but the Texans have been tough against the pass. Houston has limited opponents to 53.8 percent passing, the lowest mark in the NFL. The Texans’ offense had a tough time cashing in against the Buccaneers despite recording a season-high 413 total yards, and running back Arian Foster (groin) is close to making his season debut.

TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Falcons -6.5. O/U: 46.5

ABOUT THE TEXANS (1-2): Houston has attempted a league-high 144 passes, with Ryan Mallett igniting the passing game since taking over in the fourth quarter of the season opener. Mallett and DeAndre Hopkins (22 catches, 252 yards, three touchdowns) have developed a solid rapport, and Alfred Blue sparked the offense with 139 rushing yards last week. The Texans need defensive end J.J. Watt to lead the pass rush against Ryan after being held without a sack last week for the first time in eight games.

ABOUT THE FALCONS (3-0): Ryan leads the NFC with 946 passing yards along with five touchdowns, and Jones has been his primary target. The fifth-year wideout is putting up record numbers with 34 receptions – the most in NFL history through three games – and at least 135 receiving yards in each contest, and the Falcons got the ground game going in last week’s 39-28 win at Dallas as DeVonta Freeman racked up a career-high 141 yards and three touchdowns. The defense has been susceptible, especially against the pass, but it has forced four turnovers to help mitigate the damage.


1. Ryan is 40-15 at home in his career with a 97.1 rating.

2. Houston signed Nick Novak after releasing fellow K Randy Bullock, who missed two extra points and a field goal in the first three games.

3. The Falcons have converted 53.3 percent of their third downs – the second-highest rate in the league – while the Texans rank second in third-down defense, holding opponents to a 21.1 percent conversion rate.

PREDICTION: Falcons 24, Texans 19