Can this Atlanta offense even function without Cordarelle Patterson? We may be forced to find out.
The Atlanta Falcons (+6.5) are coming home after getting their face beat in against the Dallas Cowboys. The New England Patriots (-6.5) are now winners of four straight and one of the hottest teams in the NFL. And oh yeah, the Falcons have yet to win a game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium this year. The Falcons are now outside of the playoff race again while the Patriots are now in contention to win the AFC East.
Right now, the Falcons’ only path to victory has been on the back of their offense. When the offense has given Matt Ryan time, it’s been good enough to beat some bad teams. When Ryan has been under duress, they’ve stumbled and have lost most of those games. Unfortunately for them, they may be without one of their most important offensive weapons as Cordarelle Patterson looks doubtful for the game on Thursday with an ankle injury. This leaves Kyle Pitts as the lone “premier” weapon for Atlanta. They’ll need a lot more from guys like Russell Gage and Hayden Hurst, who have both underperformed this year.
The Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones is having a great season and is the front-runner to be the rookie of the year on offense. His receiving corps of Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor are a formidable trio. He’s also got three running backs who are splitting carries and receptions in Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson and Brandon Bolden. On top of it all, tight end Hunter Henry is having a good year as well. All of this is behind one of the better offensive lines playing right now. Their 45-7 trouncing of the Cleveland Browns felt like a statement game for them.
The Patriots defense is very good, allowing the second lowest points this year behind only the Buffalo Bills. Their 24 sacks puts them at 9th in the league and 10th in sack percentage at 6.5%. By contrast, the Atlanta defense is 31st in points, last in sacks with 11 and last in sack percentage with a sad 3.4% rating.
If this is beginning to sound like a lopsided matchup, that’s probably because it is. On paper, at least. If there’s anything the NFL has shown us this year, it’s that any team is capable of a major upset on any given Sunday. This would qualify as a very big one.
If the Falcons had their full compliment of weapons – particularly Cordarrelle Patterson and Calvin Ridley – I’d feel more confident in their ability to at least keep this game close. Right now, though, this is a team with some talent issues, injury issues and perhaps some coaching and scheme issues. They’ve beaten some bad teams, but the Patriots are not that. This feels like a second straight drubbing in the making.
The Patriots are heavily favored playing in Atlanta as the DraftKings Sportbook has them winning by about a touchdown.
Score prediction: Falcons 13, Patriots 31
Bold prediction: The stadium will look like a Patriots home game
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Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.