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Thursday Night Football Week 11

Week 11 of the 2021 NFL Season opens tonight as the New England Patriots (6-4) visit the Atlanta Falcons (4-5).

The Patriots are experiencing a bit of a revival after finishing with a 6-10 record in the 2020 season. That record allowed them to select Alabama quarterback Mac Jones-- who is playing the best out of the rookie quarterbacks this season--at 15th overall. A new dedication to the running game has surely helped Jones, but he has certainly been impressive.

The offense is playing better than expected and has more than 40 points twice in the last month. The defense has been one of the best in the league with the return of veteran linebacker Dont'a Hightower and additions like pass-rusher Matthew Judon.

The Patriots currently own the six seed in the AFC and will be looking for their fifth consecutive win.

Atlanta is an inconsistent team. There are times when it looks good (upsetting the Saints in New Orleans) and times when it looks pitiful (being blown out by Philadelphia and Dallas). Yet, the Falcons have managed four wins--albeit three came against the Giants, Jets, and Dolphins--and are just half a game out of the playoffs.

That's a great accomplishment for a team that has struggled on both sides of the ball. Atlanta's offense averages just 19.8 points per game and allows 29.2 to its opponents. Additionally, the defense can give up some big plays and has struggled since the 2017 Super Bowl Appearance.

To further complicate things for the Falcons, star receiver Calvin Ridley has taken some time away from football, and running back Cordarrelle Patterson, who leads the team in rushing and is second in receiving, was injured on Sunday. Both players will miss Thursday's game, leaving Matt Ryan and Kyle Pitts to lead Atlanta's offense.

That makes New England's job much easier. These teams are not evenly matched, even if Atlanta was at full strength.

The game airs on Fox and the NFL Network at 8:20 PM eastern time.

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