The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) will try to shake off a disappointing defeat last week as they take a short trip north to face the Atlanta Falcons (6-1) in a NFC South matchup Sunday afternoon. The Falcons have taken two straight and five of the last seven between the division rivals; that includes a 27-17 road win as a 3.5 point favorite on November 9, 2014 in their last meeting.
Tampa Bay blew a 24-0 lead and fell 31-30 on the road to Washington last week. Atlanta bounced back from their first loss of the year by scraping past Tennessee 10-7 in a defensive struggle. This game kicks off at 1:00 pm ET from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia and will be televised by FOX. Atlanta is currently a 7.5 point favorite in this contest with the over/under set at 48.5 points.
Free Pick on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -7.5
Tampa Bay definitely had their chances last week as they put together a solid offensive performance despite having two of their top three receivers go down with injuries. The Buccaneers outgained Washington 479-355 and while both teams turned the ball over once, Tampa Bay cashed theirs in for a score on a 43 yard fumble return by Howard Jones. Tampa Bay wilted in the second half as the Redskins outscored them 24-6; Washington went 80 yards in 11 plays in two minutes to score the winning touchdown with 24 seconds to play.
The Bucs have a below average offense: they are 23rd in the league in passing offense (230.2 yards per game), 4th in rushing offense (133.7 yards per contest) and 13th in scoring offense by averaging 23.3 points a game this season. Tampa Bay has struggled defensively as they are tied for 31st in the league in scoring defense by allowing 29.8 points per game. Jameis Winston is completing 59.1 percent of his passes for 1,471 yards with nine touchdowns and seven picks while getting sacked 12 times. He’s added 67 yards and a score on the ground. Doug Martin leads the Bucs on the ground with 109 carries for 541 yards and three touchdowns while Charles Sims is next in line with 47 carries for 184 yards on the ground. Vincent Jackson is tied for the team lead with 21 receptions for 319 yards and two touchdowns; Austin Seferian-Jenkins (seven receptions, 139 yards, 2 TD), Mike Evans (21 grabs, 338 yards, TD) and Sims (16 catches, 210 yards, 2 TD) are good targets as well. The Bucs lost Louis Murphy (10 grabs, 198 yards) for the year with a torn ACL and Jackson is expected to miss time with a knee injury of his own. That will put pressure on unproven commodities to try and take heat off of Evans. Connor Barth has taken over the kicking duties going forward. Barth has hit all six extra point attempts and six of six field goal attempts since coming on board.
Atlanta was held in check for the majority of the game against Tennessee, meaning it was their defense that needed to step up. The Falcons outgained the Titans 378-256 and had 21 first downs to Tennessee’s 15 but they had difficulty putting points on the board. Both teams committed a pair of turnovers but the Falcons came up with the biggest one in the closing minutes to preserve their narrow three point advantage. Atlanta controlled the time of possession battle as they had the ball for 34:45 to Tennessee’s 25:15 in the game.
The Falcons are a high octane offense as they are 9th in the league in passing offense (273.6 yards per game) and 5th in rushing offense by picking up 129.6 yards per contest. Atlanta is 4th in the league in scoring offense as they put up 27.6 points per game and 13th in scoring defense as they allow 21.4 points per contest. Matt Ryan has completed 172 of 267 passes for 2,002 yards with nine touchdowns and six picks while getting sacked 14 times. Devonta Freeman is the team’s leading rusher with 131 carries for 621 yards with nine touchdowns while rookie Tevin Coleman has 38 carries for 169 yards and a score. Julio Jones leads the team with 58 receptions for 730 yards and four scores; Freeman has 34 receptions for 310 yards and a score out of the backfield. Leonard Hankerson (22 grabs, 291 yards, 2 TD), Roddy White (14 receptions, 186 yards, TD) and Jacob Tamme (22 receptions, 266 yards) are good targets for Ryan to look for in the passing game as well. Hankerson is unlikely to play in this one as he suffered groin and hamstring injuries against the Titans. Matt Bryant has hit all 20 extra points and has booted nine of 12 field goals on the season with a long of 47 yards.
Atlanta is 18-5 ATS in their last 23 after being held under 15 points and 6-2 ATS in their last eight in week 8. Tampa Bay is 4-12 ATS in their last 16 in week 8, 1-4 ATS in their last five after running for at least 150 yards and 1-7 ATS in their last eight after an ATS win.
The Falcons won’t be held in check like they were by Tennessee all that often. They’re facing a Tampa Bay team that blew a 24-0 lead and allowed Washington to achieve the greatest comeback in that franchise’s history. The Bucs are thin at receiver, weak on defense and have a rookie QB that still makes mistakes at times. Atlanta should win this one by double figures playing at home, even with their receiving corps banged up a bit.
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