The Super Bowl LI encore is coming tonight. The post-Tom Brady New England Patriots head to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium to challenge the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday Night Football. Let’s dive into tonight’s Thursday Night Football matchup between the Patriots and Falcons and determine the best pick and prediction for this NFL betting opportunity.
Thursday Night Football Picks: Patriots vs. Falcons prediction
We open Week 11 with two teams in surprising situations. New England came into this season unsure who their starting quarterback would be.
After starting the season off 2-4, the Patriots have ripped off four straight wins and currently sit as the sixth seed in the AFC Playoff picture.
Atlanta expected to have an explosive offense entering this year, even with the departure of wide receiver Julio Jones. In a sudden turn of events, the Falcons are now without top wideout Calvin Ridley and are likely without touchdown-sensation Cordarrelle Patterson.
Can the Falcons muster up enough offense against the Patriots’ smothering defense to be a viable pick in this Thursday Night Football prediction?
Boston Tea Party 2021
Before the 2021 NFL Draft, the rumor was that the San Francisco 49ers would select quarterback Mac Jones with the No. 3 overall pick. After much online criticism for the selection, the 49ers chose Trey Lance instead. As a result, Jones fell to the Patriots at 15. Amid a surprising rookie campaign that has seen fellow 2021 draftees flounder, it seems as though New England re-upped post-Brady for minimal compensation.
Jones enters this game with the 12th-ranked expected points added (EPA) and completion percentage over expected (CPOE) composite. The Patriots’ offense is middle of the road in passing as they have the 15th-ranked aerial attack according to DVOA (Football Outsiders’ efficiency metric) and the 14th-ranked unit in EPA. Both advanced metrics rank New England’s ground attack at eighth overall.
Head coach Bill Belichick employs the tried-and-true “run the ball and play stingy defense” approach that helped him win several Super Bowls with Brady. Speaking of that stingy defense, the Patriots rank fifth overall in DVOA and sixth in total defensive EPA. This ranking comes from their fifth-ranked secondary that continues to perform even without Stephon Gilmore. Falcons QB Matt Ryan will have his work cut out for him tonight with a depleted WR corps.
Is New England the right pick in tonight’s Thursday Night Football prediction? Will they shut down Atlanta’s aerial attack?
Buy Low, Sell High
It seems like ages ago, but the Falcons were in the Super Bowl just five years ago. Since one of the most incredible choke jobs in Super Bowl history, Atlanta has not been the same. They’ve had one winning season since then, and the defense is a shell of what it formerly was.
The only part of the Atlanta team that has kept them relevant over the last couple of seasons has been Ryan and the offense. Ryan had a safety valve in Julio Jones for years and recently had a legitimate No. 2 in Calvin Ridley. The expectation was for the offense to improve with the addition of rookie tight end Kyle Pitts. However, with the departure of those two receivers, Ryan has had to rely on renaissance players like Patterson and running back Mike Davis.
Looking at advanced metrics, the Falcons don’t have much going for them. Atlanta has the 31st total offense regarding DVOA and 25th-ranked attack in EPA. The only bright spot for this offense is their rushing EPA, which ranks seventh. Every other advanced metric ranks them in the bottom 10. Ryan, who used to be the lone bright spot in this offense, is the 23rd-ranked quarterback per the EPA+CPOE composite.
Defensively, Atlanta looks just as bad. They have the 29th total DVOA and the 25th-ranked total EPA. This rank is heavily weighed on their league-worst run-stopping unit in DVOA. They have the worst special-teams unit in the league in DVOA and have been dominated in many games this year. With such a grim outlook for Atlanta, are they worth a pick in tonight’s Thursday Night Football prediction?
Patriots vs. Falcons prediction and pick
Before I declare my side, remember this is a prime-time game. Home underdogs are covering at a 51% clip in all games this season. That number is even higher (72.7%) during prime-time contests. The home environment during prime-time matchups comes alive and becomes a very hostile environment for visiting teams.
Another trend is the cover winning percentage of teams that failed to cover the week prior (Atlanta) against teams that did cover the previous week (New England). That trend is in the 65%+ range as well.
The Patriots are in the ultimate sell high spot right now. They are coming off four wins in a row, and two of them came against legitimate teams like the Los Angeles Chargers and Cleveland Browns. I’ll take the spread at +7 in this game. I would not be surprised if New England had to win on a field goal on the final drive or if they even lost this Thursday Night Football battle outright.