BOSTON (CBS) — Just over eight months ago, the Patriots walked off the field at NRG Stadium in Houston as Super Bowl champs following their dramatic and unprecedented comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons.
This week, under very different circumstances, they’ll meet again. This time, it’ll be at Gillette Stadium, where the 4-2 Patriots and 3-2 Falcons both want this victory badly.
Only one team can win, and here’s how the WBZ sports team sees this one playing out.
Steve Burton, WBZ-TV Sports
The Patriots have won two straight games. The Falcons have lost two straight. Atlanta is desperate — not that they need any extra incentive. They have circled this game on their calendar right from the start, after being embarrassed in Super Bowl LI.
But this is Week 7 and let’s hope the Pats are starting to hit their stride. The offensive line protected Tom Brady against the Jets. They must do so on Sunday night. This game may indeed be close.
Patriots 34 Falcons 28
Dan Roche, WBZ-TV Sports
This is going to be a huge challenge for the Patriots. The Falcons should be 4-1 coming in, but they blew a 17-0 lead at home against Miami last week. Their other loss was against Buffalo, so they’re 0-2 in their games against the AFC East.
Matt Ryan has thrown six interceptions in his last three games, but the Pats D (a work in progress) has allowed all six opposing quarterbacks to throw for 300-plus yards this season.
Dan Roche and Mike Riley Preview Sunday’s Game
This is Atlanta’s Super Bowl II, so they will be fired up. The most points the Falcons have given up is 26 at Detroit, and I think the Pats will have to score at least that to pull out a win.
Patriots 38, Falcons 34
Levan Reid, WBZ-TV Sports
Can the Pats continue to move in the right direction, despite the mistakes they keep making???
This is a hard team to figure out. They are winning games on the road but seem to struggle more here at Gillette. The Falcons are coming in lucky to be 3-2 on the season. They could easily be 1-4, though the Pats could easily be 2-4.
New England gets a chance to trend things in the right direction at home and I think they will do so. They will slow down Julio Jones, as much as you can slow him down. They will keep the pass rush off Tom Brady and they will run the ball for a second straight week.
I actually expect a big game from Mike Gillislee. Maybe the game we’ve been waiting to see from him.
Patriots 27, Falcons 21
Adam Kaufman, WBZ NewsRadio 1030/98.5 The Sports Hub
Sunday brings us a Super Bowl rematch but, honestly, neither the Patriots nor the Falcons are playing nearly as well as they were when they squared off last winter.
Pats lead the AFC East, but they’ve started slowly defensively – to put it kindly – and the Birds reeled off three straight wins before choking late in their last two. Okay, perhaps that one’s consistent [insert your favorite 28-3 joke here].
Either way, a prime-time meeting will provide all the juice we’ll need for a contest still featuring last year’s MVP and his Hall of Fame counterpart who’s playing like one even at 40.
One clear concern: Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Mohamed Sanu opposite a banged up New England secondary (likely no Stephon Gilmore or Eric Rowe) that’s permitted at least 300 passing yards every week through six games. That’s historic, and no reason to think it’s going to change, despite improvement from the ‘D’ the last two weeks.
Between Gordon Hayward and Tuukka Rask, let’s just hope everyone stays healthy.
Patriots 33, Falcons 24
Mike “Sarge” Riley, WBZ NewsRadio 1030/98.5 The Sports Hub
The tight end position is the name of the game for both sides of the football in this one.
The last time these two teams met, the Pats had Julian Edelman on the field and no Rob Gronkowski. Now eight months later, you can flip that script. And interestingly enough, the Atlanta defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown this season by any tight end — that changes Sunday with Gronk coming off a two-touchdown performance against the Jets last week.
Matt Ryan’s get out of jail card has been tight end Austin Hooper, who has 17 receptions (second on the team behind leader Julio Jones with 25). The Pats defense has had trouble this season and they’ll need to find a way to stop him — with or without Stephon Gilmore.
Atlanta has had trouble putting teams away this season, and the Patriots have had luck on their side. The luck continues this weekend, much like it did during Super Bowl LI.
Patriots 27, Falcons 24
Tune in to Sunday’s Patriots-Falcons game on 98.5 The Sports Hub — the flagship station of the New England Patriots. Pregame coverage begins at 5:30pm, with full postgame coverage after the game. You can get your Patriots Sunday started early with Patriots GameDay at 11:30am on WBZ-TV, and tune in to Patriots 5th Quarter for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s postgame press conferences!