New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons Prediction: Don't Expect Scoring on TNF

New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons predictions and picks for Thursday Night Football. NFL expert Ben Gretch breaks down the game and gives his pick
Ben Gretch
Wed, November 17, 7:37 PM EST

New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons Prediction: Don't Expect Scoring on TNF

  • Key Note: During their recent four-game winning streak, New England has held opponents to an average of just 58.5 offensive plays per game.

Patriots vs. Falcons odds

New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons Prediction

The Patriots are on a roll right now, playing good defense, running the ball, and allowing rookie Mac Jones to throw in opportune situations. That basic gameplan has worked wonders, and Jones has found a lot of success. In their 45-7 drubbing of the Browns in Week 10, the Patriots threw the ball just 26 times against 34 runs, and in their Week 9 win over the Panthers their run lean was even starker, as they threw just 18 passes all game, two more than the fewest any team has thrown in a game all season (the Eagles threw just 16 times in Week 8).

That philosophy has a tendency to shorten games by keeping the clock running and limiting possessions. In Week 9 against the Panthers, New England won a low-scoring game, 24-6, while limiting the Panthers to just 240 yards of offense on just 57 plays. Last week, New England’s scoreline reached 45-7, but largely because they were unsustainably efficient on offense. Their philosophy, and the Browns’ willingness to run the ball on the other side, led to a game in which both teams got only eight true possessions. The Patriots scored touchdowns on six of theirs, and added a field goal on another, which is just a crazy conversion rate.

Of course, part of the reason there were fewer possessions was the Patriots putting together those long scoring drives. But that ability to score on seven of eight drives over the course of a game, and especially converting six of those for touchdowns, is not something to bet on. New England now heads to Atlanta on a short week as big road favorites, and we get a reasonably high over/under despite the Patriots mostly playing very slow games of late.

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Cordarrelle Patterson will be a gametime decision for the Falcons, but it’s a tough ask to have him at full strength on a short week. Rookie Kyle Pitts is playing great ball, but with Calvin Ridley and potentially now Patterson out, Pitts has virtually no cover. The Falcons have what is potentially the worst wide receiver group in the league right now with Russell Gage, Tajae Sharpe, and Olamide Zaccheaus all running big numbers of routes. Mike Davis has added nothing from the backfield, and Wayne Gallman appears likely to fill in for some of Patterson’s role. But Atlanta is in a very tough spot without playmakers, and if ever there was a situation for the old cliche that Bill Belichick likes to take away an opponent’s top weapon, this would be it. If Patterson’s out, all you have to do is stop Pitts, and you’re talking about a replacement-level player touching the ball.

The Patriots meanwhile get Damien Harris back to pair with their own rookie, Rhamondre Stevenson, who rushed for 100 yards and two scores in Harris’s absence last week. Back at full strength in the backfield, I’m fully expecting Belichick to run the ball and play defense on a short week. I expect they’ll find success, too, but they won’t likely be able to score as frequently as they did last week, because that’s simply just an unrealistic expectation. A slow game against an offense without playmakers where they can run the clock and keep Atlanta’s overall offensive chances down? I love the under.

New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons Pick

PICK: Under 47.5 @ -111

2021 NFL Team Over/Under Record

Ben Gretch
@YardsPerGretch
Ben knows his football. A fantasy football expert who was most recently seen at CBS Sports, he'll be helping bettors find value ahead in the NFL with OddsChecker.
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