New England @ Atlanta
-Falcons RB Cordarrelle Patterson (ankle) suffered a high ankle sprain last week. He was limited in practice and officially questionable/a game time decision, however, it seems fairly unlikely that someone could play on such an injury with short rest.
-Falcons S Jaylinn Hawkins (ankle) was limited in practice all week and is questionable.
-Falcons TE Hayden Hurst (ankle) is out after being injured last week.
-Patriots RB Damien Harris (concussion) was removed from the teams injury report and will play.
-Patriots TE Jonnue Smith (shoulder) was inactive last week. He's questionable this week after being limited all week.
-Patriots DE Chase Winovich (hamstring) was activated off IR on 11/17, leaving open the option that he could return.
-The Patriots like to list their entire roster as questionable. None of them (except Smith) are in danger of missing.
When the Patriots have the ball:
Mac fucking Jones. What started out as the guy who was known as the only rookie quarterback who hasn't shit his pants has turned into the guy who has been one of the best quarterbacks in football. Jones ranks 5th in PFF grades (87.0) while completing 69% of his passes (2.6% above expectation) and gaining 7.2 yards per attempt. Jones is PFF's top graded quarterback since week 5 and has just 1 turnover worthy play since that time period. The reason why he won't (and shouldn't) enter any MVP conversation is his usage -- the Patriots are 21st in neutral pass rate frequency, instead leaning heavily on the running game. Their offensive line is finally fully healthy and easily one of the top units in the game, which has helped whatever running back is playing that day to perform well. In total, the Pats running game is 8th in DVOA. The top receivers by projected targets: touchdown scorer Jakobi Meyers, TE Hunter Henry, Kendrick Bourne, and Nelson Agholor. I have nothing good or bad to say about any of them, they're all just slightly above average. In total, the Pats offense is 15th in offensive DVOA and 13th in EPA/play. They're going up against a Falcons defense that is 31st in DVOA and 25th in EPA/play. There's a decent enough pass rush between Dante Fowler (edge) and Graddy Jarrett (inside), and second year corner AJ Terrell is playing well. However, it's been hot garbage outside of those 3. LB Deion Jones, typically an athletic freak capable of covering backs and tight ends, is having the worst year of his career, evident by his 46.5 PFF grade (43.0 in coverage).
When the Falcons have the ball:
Matt Ryan sits at 11th in PFF grades (82.2) while completing 67.7% of his passes (1.1% over expectation) and gaining 7.1 yards per attempt. Ryan has been the ultimate boom or bust QB -- his PFF grades in each game has either been over 83 or under 66. The offensive line has been middle of the road -- they're solid at LT (Jake Matthews), C (Matt Hennessy), and RG (Chris Lindstrom), but weak at LG (Jalen Mayfield) and RT (Kaleb McGary). Mayfield is a rookie third rounder who played at tackle exclusively at Michigan, so it isn't a total surprise he's struggling in his rookie season. The top receivers by projected targets: TE Kyle Pitts, Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus, and Tajae Sharpe. They had been using Cordarrelle Patterson as a lethal running back/wide receiver combo, but since he's unlikely to go (high ankle sprain) and Calvin Ridley is still working on his personal issues, Ryan has Kyle Pitts and nobody else to throw the ball to. On the ground, Wayne Gallman led the way in rushing attempts after Patterson went down, with Mike Davis trailing (Gallman had 15 attempts, Davis 4). The Falcons offense is 29th in DVOA and 25th in EPA/play. The Pats defense is at 5th in DVOA and 6th in EPA/play. Matthew Judon (47 pressures), rookie DT Christian Barmore (28) pressures, and Deatrich Wise (17) have developed into a solid pass rushing trio, and they'll be aided with Case Winovich returning. The secondary is solid, led by outside corner JC Jackson, S Devin McCoury, S Adrian Phillips, and slot corner Myles Bryant. CB Jalen Mills has been the weakness, but it shouldn't matter against this group of receivers. The Patriots are also the best team in the NFL in DVOA against tight ends, which further makes Matt Ryan's job more difficult.
Spread: The model -- believe it or not -- prefers the favorite here, taking the Patriots at -7 with a strength of 1.77. The line has since shifted to 6.5 -- at that price the model then takes the Pats with a strength of 2.4. That isn't enough for us to recommend it, but if you insist on taking a side, that's our preference. 65% of cash and 72% of tickets are on the Patriots.
Total: The total sits at 47, with 58% of tickets and 34% of cash on the over. I'd prefer the over, but I don't love the line.
Prop bets that don't suck:
Matt Ryan o21.5 completions -120 (FanDuel): Ryan's projection sits at 24.5. With a game total of 47 and the Falcons big dogs, Ryan will have to throw.
Nelson Agholor u2.5 receptions +140 (Caesars): Agholor has gone under this number in 4 of his last 5 games, as Kendrick Bourne has become a bigger part of the offense. I'm not turning down the price at +140.
Russell Gage u3.5 receptions +114 (DraftKings): Gage has the toughest matchup of any wide receiver. He runs 19% of his routes from the left, 53% from the slot, and 27% from the right. This means he'll see more of Myles Bryant and JC Jackson of any Falcons receiver.