Even the most die-hard Atlanta fans might avoid watching Thursday night’s matchup with New England. They all know that Fox will be hitting hard on that February 2017 night in Houston when the Falcons went brain dead and allowed the Patriots to steal a Super Bowl.
While this game won’t likely be so painful for the A-T-L — no way these Falcons build a 28-3 second-half lead — the result figures to be the same.
With rookie quarterback Mac Jones looking like the real thing despite the occasional misstep, and with a ball-hawking defense, the Patriots are on a four-game winning streak. They made two of their supposedly main competitors in the AFC, the Chargers and Browns, look pedestrian recently, finally beating some decent opponents.
As for 2017 …
“You can’t go back and win that game from 2017,” says Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, one of the few remaining Falcons from that debacle. “So you have to move on from it and try to do everything we can to get ourselves back to .500. I really don’t think it exorcises any demons or anything like that. That game is over and has been played.”
The Patriots, No. 8 in the AP Pro32, are 7-point favorites at No. 23 Atlanta, according to FanDuel SportsBook. That’s a bargain.
KNOCKOUT POOL: The Colts made us sweat before putting away the Jaguars. This time, the obvious choice — surprisingly we have not taken them yet — happens to have the AFC’s best record. TENNESSEE.
No. 32 Houston (plus 10) at No. 2 Tennessee
Logic in Week 11 says don’t lay big point spreads. But Houston is so bad …
BEST BET: TITANS, 30-13
No. 3 Dallas (plus 3) at No. 10 Kansas City
So many folks are excited by the Chiefs’ showing at Las Vegas. We remain skeptical of their defense.
UPSET SPECIAL: COWBOYS, 31-30
No. 12 Pittsburgh (plus 6) at No. 11 Los Angeles Chargers
The Steelers could be missing key ingredients and aren’t facing Detroit this week.
No. 31 Detroit (plus 10) at No. 17 Cleveland
Again we see the Lions keeping things close without winning.
No. 1 Green Bay (minus 3) at No. 19 Minnesota
We don’t have the guts to pick an upset, but expecting this to come down to the end.
No. 14 New Orleans (plus 1 1/2) at No. 21 Philadelphia
We don’t have the guts to pick an upset here either. Another tight outcome.
No. 4 Arizona (minus 2 1/2) at No. 24 Seattle
But here we do, especially if Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins aren’t 100%.
No. 15 (tie) Indianapolis (plus 7 1/2) at No. 5 Buffalo
The Colts are showing as much balance as the Bills did earlier in the schedule.
No. 25 Washington (plus 3 1/2) at No. 18 Carolina
Cam Newton vs. Ron Rivera? A very intriguing matchup. Christian McCaffrey will be the difference.
No. 22 San Francisco (minus 6 1/2) at No. 29 Jacksonville
Traveling cross country after a Monday night game isn’t a recipe for success. Niners will manage.
No. 27 (tie) Miami (minus 3) at No. 30 New York Jets
Traveling to the Meadowlands these days is a recipe for success.
No. 27 (tie) New York Giants (plus 11) at No. 6 Tampa Bay, Monday night
We just can’t see the Buccaneers flopping for a third straight game.
No. 9 Baltimore (minus 6) at No. 26 Chicago
The Ravens are such a mystifying bunch. But the Bears are who we thought they are.
No. 13 Cincinnati (minus 1) at No. 15 (tie) Las Vegas
One of these teams needs an immediate turnaround.
Last Week: Straight up: 8-5-1. Against spread: 6-8.
Season: Straight up: 94-55-1. Against spread: 81-65-2.
Best Bet: Straight up: 5-4-1. Against spread: 7-3.
Upset Special: Straight up: 9-0. Against spread: 9-0.
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Barry Wilner, The Associated Press