Week 11 kicks off with an intriguing Thursday Night Football matchup between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons. After slow starts to the 2021 campaign, the two teams have combined to win eight of their 11 total games over the last five weeks.
Having won four straight, the Patriots especially ride a major wave of momentum into Thursday’s game. They’ll aim to continue their hot streak, while the Falcons hope to rebound at home after an ugly Week 10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The betting odds list the visitors as a full touchdown favorite ahead of this TNF showdown.
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Opening Lines: Patriots -4; O/U 46
Current Lines: Patriots -7; O/U 47.5
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium — Atlanta, GA
Start Time: 8:20 p.m. EDT
TV: FOX, NFL Network
Last Meeting: October 22, 2017 — The Patriots defeated the Falcons 23-7 in Foxborough.
At this point, the Patriots are arguably playing the best football of any team in the NFL. Winners of four straight and five of the last six, New England enters this contest red-hot. Last week saw Bill Belichick’s bunch thoroughly dominate a fellow AFC playoff hopeful in the Cleveland Browns.
For the second straight week, New England’s defense held its opponent to single-digits on the scoreboard. Safety Kyle Dugger continued the Pats’ incredible start to the season in the turnover department with an interception. As a team, the Patriots are tied for second in the NFL with 14 picks this season. After holding the Browns to just 217 total yards, the Patriots surged into the top-five of adjusted defensive efficiency.
Along with exceptional defensive play, we saw a better side of the Patriots’ offense previously kept under wraps. Rookie QB Mac Jones took full advantage of a promising matchup against a porous Browns secondary, throwing three touchdown passes in what was probably his best game as a pro thus far. Tight end Hunter Henry caught two scoring strikes and continues to be a prime red-zone target. Wideout Jakobi Meyers finally caught his first NFL touchdown in the win as well.
Pretty sure the #Patriots were happier to finally get Jakobi Meyers a touchdown than they were for winning 45-7.pic.twitter.com/ZnsU9hrFiS
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 16, 2021
With lead running back Damien Harris inactive due to a concussion, another rookie stepped up in his absence. Rhamondre Stevenson rumbled for 100 yards rushing and a pair of scores as the New England ground game continued its recent roll.
After pulling off a surprising upset over the Saints two weeks ago, the Falcons were largely lifeless in last Sunday’s 43-3 lopsided loss to the Cowboys. Despite star receiver Calvin Ridley stepping away from the game for personal reasons, Matt Ryan had cobbled together some solid offensive performances. That was not the case against former Falcons head coach and current Cowboys defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn. Ryan went just 9-of-21 for 117 yards and two picks in the loss. With hybrid skill player Cordarrelle Patterson suffering an ankle injury, the Falcons figure to be up against it again Thursday night.
On the bright side, Patterson practiced in a limited capacity on Monday and Tuesday. Atlanta desperately needs its most productive player all season, as trying to break down the Patriots’ defense is difficult enough at full strength. If Ryan must do so without any reliable weapons, things could get ugly in a hurry.
Rookie tight end Kyle Pitts led all Falcons pass-catchers with 60 receiving yards against Dallas. Although he is the most talented player on the field for Atlanta, Pitts does not yet have the experience to beat NFL defenses that can key in on him.
Speaking of defense, the Falcons haven’t played a whole lot of it this season. Atlanta enters this battle ranked 31st in adjusted defensive efficiency.
- Patriots are 4-1 both SU and ATS in their last five games.
- Five of the Patriots’ last six games have gone over the total.
- Falcons are just 1-5 SU in their last six home games.
- The total has gone over in four of the Falcons’ last six games.
- The Patriots are a perfect 6-0 both SU and ATS in their last six head-to-head matchups against the Falcons dating back to 2001.
As someone who has bet on the Patriots virtually every week to date, it’s hard to see a reason to hop off the train now. Yes, the NFL betting market has caught up to just how good this team is. Such is typically the case when any team experiences a prolonged run of success.
However, this matchup is a true mismatch in more ways than one. New England has the advantage on both sides of the ball and a massive one on the sidelines. It’s almost impossible to fathom Belichick losing to Arthur Smith. The fact that the line has moved so sharply in the Pats’ favor only bolsters my confidence in their ability to cover.
When it comes to the total, the market’s move to the over contradicts my initial inkling to play under 47.5. Given this is a short week of prep for both teams, there is a level of concern. Trusting a depleted Falcons offense to decipher the Patriots’ defense is foolish. On the other side, New England might be perfectly content to run the ball early and often and grind out a road win.
Expect this game to play out more similar to the Pats’ 24-6 win over the Carolina Panthers two weeks ago than their beatdown of Cleveland.
Picks: Patriots -7 and Under 47.5
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Henry John is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Henry, check out his archive and follow him @HankTimeHenry.