The Atlanta Falcons will try to get their season moving in the right direction in Week 6 when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 EST on Sunday, October 14, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Fans in local markets will be able to watch the game on Fox.
Oddsmakers list the Falcons as 3.5-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is an ambitious 57.5 points. Be sure to check out a full list of the Week 6 NFL odds.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it, the Falcons are in deep trouble. Despite starting the season with aspirations to win the NFC South, Atlanta is currently 1-4 and in danger of seeing their playoff hopes dashed before the end of October. Prior to last week, the Falcons could take solace in their losses being close games. But that’s no longer the case after losing 41-17 to the Steelers last week in their third straight defeat.
However, while they are hanging by a thread, hope is not yet lost for the Falcons. They play three of their next five games at home, with all five games coming against teams that are .500 or below this season. They have an opportunity right in front of them to start moving in the right direction. That being said, this week’s game is undoubtedly a must-win situation for them.
The Buccaneers, meanwhile, are hoping to hit restart on their season coming out of their bye week. Tampa Bay lost back-to-back games heading into their bye, including a humiliating 48-10 loss to the Bears. The silver lining is that they seem to have cleared up any lingering quarterback controversy in that blowout loss. Jameis Winston will be the starter moving forward with Ryan Fitzpatrick returning to the backup role.
At 2-2, the Buccaneers are very much relevant in the NFC South. However, that could change quickly if they aren’t able to start gaining some ground on the 4-1 Saints. The Bucs will play three of their next four games on the road, so it’ll be important for them to take advantage of a struggling Atlanta team and get a win on the road this week.
It’s a little tempting to eat the points and lean toward Atlanta knowing how desperate they are to get a win. However, last week’s game showed that they’re moving in the wrong direction. The Atlanta defense, in particular, isn’t exactly set up for success against the Tampa Bay offense. In fact, I’m not sure either defense will be able to do much this week, which makes it tough to swallow more than a field goal. I’ll take my chances with Tampa Bay as the underdog.
With the injuries to safeties Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal early in the season, the Atlanta secondary has been an absolute nightmare. To make matters worse, the Falcons rank near the bottom of the league in sacks, so it’s not as if the defensive line is doing much to bother quarterbacks and give the secondary some support. They’ve allowed a minimum of 37 points during their three-game losing streak, and there’s little reason to expect that to change this week.
The Tampa Bay passing attack is just as capable of torching the Falcons as any of the teams that have done it the past three weeks. Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson are no doubt licking their chops ahead of this game. Jackson, in particular, could be dangerous over the top with the Falcons getting lackluster safety play.
Of course, it’s fair to question whether Winston will be ready to take advantage of such a porous defense. After all, he threw two interceptions when he came in for Fitzpatrick against the Bears. However, he’s had two full weeks of practice as the starter and did get a chance to shake off some of the rust against the Bears. Also, the Chicago defense is light years ahead of the Atlanta defense, so the competition level will be down significantly from what he faced a couple weeks ago.
Moreover, Winston has a good history against the Falcons. He’s 3-2 in his career against Atlanta with 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Winston also had one of the best games of his career late last season against Atlanta. As long as he can avoid turning the ball over, it’s safe to say that the Buccaneers will have to no problem moving the ball and putting points on the board.
At the same time, the Tampa Bay defense is also a huge concern. The Bucs are giving up the most points per game in the NFL. Meanwhile, Matt Ryan and the passing attack has been the only bright spot for the Falcons this season. As much as Evans and Jackson are poised for big games, the same can be said of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley.
Needless to say, this game has shootout written all over it. Taking the over on 57.5 points may be the best option, even if that’s high for an NFL game. Against the spread, I feel a little more comfortable with the Bucs. I don’t think the Falcons are as bad as their 1-4 indicates, but it’s tough to swallow points for a team that’s lost three in a row. I’ll take my chances with the Bucs and the extra points.