Patriots

What NFL experts are predicting for Thursday’s Patriots-Falcons game

New England is nearly a touchdown favorite heading down to Atlanta.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. AP

After watching the first three episodes of ESPN’s new “Man in the Arena,” I’m finished with any more comparisons of this team to the 2001 Patriots. 

The Tom Brady-branded documentary is more than just a re-hash of the quarterback’s storied career. At its best, its focus is centered on the players and people surrounding Brady during each Super Bowl season. Brady acts as the sage, leading the storyline of the Patriots’ first three titles. And by God, put the kids to bed. Because does he SWEAR

But if the first episode, chronicling the unlikelihood of the 2001 team, should remind us of anything, it’s just how much of an outlier season that was. 

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We’re reminded of the veteran presence that team possessed (Tedy Bruschi, Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Troy Brown, etc.), something that this year’s Patriots can not necessarily claim. “Man in the Arena” goes to full lengths to explain how that leadership helped hone Brady in his early years. Besides, Drew Bledsoe, Mo Lewis, Tuck Rule, the goal line stand in Indy… 

Plenty of bad sequels have been shoehorned in Hollywood over the years, trying to the duplicate script of the original. So, I can understand the sense of hesitancy that some former players, like Jermaine Wiggins, show when asked to compare the two teams, two decades apart. You can’t duplicate the magic that that season gave New England. 

Why would we want to keep trying? 

This week’s predictions: 

Globe staff: Split (New England -7). 

Joe Giglio, NJ.com: Patriots 26, Falcons 20. “Here come the Patriots. Belichick has this team rolling, and Mac Jones looks more comfortable by the week. A short week road game isn’t easy, but the Falcons don’t scare anyone.”

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 27, Falcons 19. “The Patriots are rolling with four straight victories, which has them pushing Buffalo in the AFC East. The Falcons looked terrible last week against the Cowboys. But these games are always tough for the visitors. I don’t think that will be the case here. The Patriots will continue to roll as Mac Jones plays well.”

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Michael Hurley, CBS Boston: New England (-6.5). “As someone who is now 2-8 (TWO AND EIGHT!) on Thursday Night Football, do I even bother giving an explanation? I don’t know the right answer to that. I’ll just say the short week and travel are concerning. BUT. The spunkiness of the Falcons is fully faded. And Cordarrelle Patterson’s got a bum ankle. I am officially broken by Thursday Night Football, though. Broken. Busted.”

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 27, Falcons 20. “The Patriots are back to taking care of business with Bill Belichick. When they’re playing defense and running the ball like that, it makes the job of rookie quarterback Mac Jones much easier. Nothing needs to give here. They won’t hesitate to stick with their strengths, because they also align with the Falcons’ weaknesses. Matt Ryan’s roller-coaster passing takes another big dip while Jones has more diverse and deeper weapons with whom to easily outduel him.”

ESPN staff: All Pats. 

Bill Bender, Sporting News: Patriots 28, Falcons 20. “The Patriots have won and covered the spread in four straight games. The Falcons have been inconsistent from week to week and have yet to win a home game. New England has 11 sacks and averages two picks per game in that streak.” 

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FiveThirtyEight: Patriots, 67 percent (-5). 

NFL Pickwatch: Ninety-seven percent Patriots. 

It says here: Patriots 34, Falcons 21. There are a lot of reasons to pick the Falcons, but they’re still the Falcons.

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