Red-hot Patriots heavily-backed 6.5-point favorites at Falcons

The New England Patriots, who have put their early-season woes behind them, aim to record their fifth consecutive victory when they visit the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night.The Patriots (6-4) have outscored their foes 150-50 during the four-game streak and sit just a half-game behind the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East.New England is a 6.5-point favorite on the road, with the Patriots backed by 77 percent of the bets and 80 percent of the spread-line money at DraftKings. AI-driven analytics company Quarter4 is forecasting them with a 79 percent chance of beating the Falcons.Part of the reason for New England’s success revolves around the quick rise of rookie quarterback Mac Jones.The No. 15 overall pick in the 2021 draft is showing maturity beyond his years as well as a pinpoint throwing arm. Jones has completed 69 percent of his passes for 2,333 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions.Jones passed for a career-best three touchdowns and completed 19 of 23 throws for 198 yards on Sunday as New England steamrolled the Cleveland Browns 45-7.”We’re confident and we know what the formula is for winning the game,” Jones told WEEI. “We just have to continue to do that. We can’t be satisfied with where we’re at. We’re not where we want to be and we’re going to continue to work every day, and this week is a quick week. We’ve got to be ready to go for the game Thursday.”Perhaps the bigger question is whether Atlanta (4-5) will be ready to go.The Falcons are back on the field just four days after they were routed 43-3 by the Dallas Cowboys.The beating was so one-sided that Atlanta trailed 36-3 at halftime, the 33-point deficit representing the franchise’s largest at the break since trailing the Johnny Unitas-led Baltimore Colts 35-0 on Nov. 12, 1967.”It’s a good thing we play Thursday,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “When you play a game like that, you wanna move on as quick as possible, so I’m kinda glad we’re playing Thursday.”Quarterback Matt Ryan was one of many Atlanta players who had a subpar outing. He completed a season-worst 42.9 percent of his passes (9 of 21) for a season-low 117 yards while getting picked off twice. He posted a career-worst 21.4 passer rating.”We didn’t play well anywhere,” Ryan said. “It’s not about any one position. Across the board, we all didn’t take care of our business, and we can do better than that, and we need to.”The Falcons had won three of four games prior to the dismantling in Dallas. They could use a win to bolster their playoff hopes.