The New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons come out completely opposite weeks before their clash on Thursday night in Week 11.
New England won four straight games and crushed the Cleveland Browns, 45-7, in Week 10. Bill Belichick and Mac Jones have incredible momentum as they started 2-4 with losses to the New Orleans Saints and the Miami Dolphins. .
The Falcons are the last in the NFC South, and although they seemed to move up in that standings, Atlanta was run down, 43-3, in Dallas in Week 10. It was a brutal outing for the Falcons, who could do nothing to stop quarterback Dak Prescott and company.
So let’s dive into this game. We’ve integrated Falcons Wire editor Matt Urben to help preview the game. Here’s an exchange with Urben and Patriots Wire editor Henry McKenna.
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Matt Urben, Falcons Wire: Patterson, 30, had previously worked with Falcons offensive coordinator Dave Ragone in Chicago, but no one imagined he would have that kind of impact. The team intended to have him play primarily the running back, and with pretty much the entire offense except Kyle Pitts struggling, Patterson has become Atlanta’s most reliable weapon. At the start of Week 11, he’s leading the team in rushing yards, touchdowns and first downs. . However, Patterson sprained his ankle against the Cowboys on Sunday and there’s a chance he won’t play. If he’s out, the Falcons’ offense could be in trouble against the Patriots Thursday night.
Henry McKenna, Patriots Wire: It has helped that their opponents (Jets, Chargers, Panthers, Browns) are relatively weaker in the last four games than the impressive teams they have seen in the first six games (Buccaneers, Cowboys). But it also helped that the defense went from being good to excellent, with a slight increase in takeaways, resulting in Bill Belichick moving away from the men’s cover and the zone. This masked the weakness of the team in CB2 and CB3 behind the excellent CB1 JC Jackson. The final strand is the development of QB Mac Jones, who is starting to gain confidence and skill as a field pitcher. He was tenuous at the start of the season and the Patriots were very reluctant to trust him. New England finds it can do just that.
Urben: It’s been an absolute roller coaster under Arthur Smith so far. The Falcons lost games they didn’t have to lose, won three times on a last-second field goal, and were hammered by the Cowboys by 40 points in Week 10. Honestly, this list has some seriousness. flaws and Smith’s staff can only cover so much with scheme and creativity. Even when the team played well, the lack of depth made it difficult to maintain the leads. There seems to be more responsibility this season, and the fact that Atlanta is even in the playoff race is a testament to Smith and his staff. After last week’s dud in Dallas, fans are eager to see how Smith responds against Bill Belichick.
McKenna: Well, I dove into this a bit in the previous question. Considering the Patriots are 6-4 with a strong chance of qualifying for the playoffs, I would call Jones’ rookie season a success. He was the fifth quarterback caught in the NFL Draft, but played better – much better – than the rest of the rookie callers. It is more a product of circumstance than of talent. The Patriots brought in talented free agency players to support their quarterback (who at the time they thought would be Cam Newton). New England has an offensive line that is starting to look like the elite. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels calls for good games for Jones. It all revolves around the rookie quarterback, who is basically just a leader in a high-level offensive system. He distributes the ball and lets the others score.
Urben: Obviously, the Falcons need a talent overhaul, but the team’s lack of salary cap space and Ryan’s massive success have made it difficult. This would have been a factor in Atlanta’s decision to draft Kyle Pitts against quarterbacks Justin Fields and Mac Jones. Ryan owes $ 48.6million in 2022 and $ 43million in 2023, so it seems unlikely he’ll move next season. Also, I think Smith wants to see if he can get it to work with Ryan before the team goes into full rebuild mode.
McKenna: It must be newcomer Matthew Judon, who has 9.5 sacks and, according to PFF, 47 presses. This is exactly what he did in the pass-rush. Judon is actually an excellent defender of the race who can give the advantage. That’s why he was best known when he played in Baltimore, where he played before joining the Patriots in free agency for $ 56 million this offseason. It is money well spent.
Urben: Outside of Patterson, rookie Kyle Pitts has been impressive. The No.4 pick in the 2021 draft leads the team in catches (40) and receiving yards (606) over nine games. Right guard Chris Lindstrom has gotten strong in his third season and looks like a building block going forward. Fans probably know defensive lineman Grady Jarrett, but second-year cornerback AJ Terrell is quietly making a name for himself in the league. Linebacker Foye Oluokun, a 2018 Yale sixth-round pick, has worked his way to a starting role and leads the team in tackles.
McKenna: The Patriots’ tackles struggled, which is part of why Jones is so quick to deliver football. If there’s a way to confuse Jones – perhaps, in part, by removing his controls – then the Falcons can put pressure on the quarterback. When under pressure, he can get shaken up and give up on turnovers. That’s how the Chargers knocked Jones off balance in Week 8. He struggled in this game. The other area, which I mentioned before, is the depth of the cornerback. Don’t bother chasing Jackson in the passing game. See what cornerback Jalen Mills will give up.
Urben: After Sunday’s 43-3 loss to the Cowboys, it is a decisive game for Atlanta. The Patriots are rolling and while I expect Belichick to prepare his squad for this Thursday night game, it feels like a classic trap game. The Falcons are impossible to predict, so why wouldn’t they break the Patriots’ four-game losing streak four days after their 40-point loss? Falcons 21, Patriots 17.
McKenna: The Patriots win, 17-14. Something tells me it’s going to be a sloppy game, where the underdog Falcons make a surprising push on the suddenly resurgent Patriots. New England partly built their winning streak around the idea that everyone thinks they stink – and that their record doesn’t reflect who they are as a team. It might cause disappointment when everyone thinks the Patriots are good again and the record actually reflects how good they are. That’s why the much less talented Falcons will give the Patriots a game.