Atlanta Falcons (5-3 SU, 5-3 ATS) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4 SU, 3-4 ATS)
Week 9 NFL
Date/Time: Thursday Night Football, November 3, 2016 at 8:25PM EST
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
TV: NFL Network
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: ATL -3/TB +3
Over/Under Total: 51.5
The Atlanta Falcons come into Raymond James Stadium to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday in NFC South action. On Sunday, Tampa Bay looked on their way to a big home win against the Raiders until a late TD pushed the game to overtime, where Tampa came up short, 30-24 to fall to 3-4. They try to get back to .500 this week against the incoming Falcons. On Sunday, Atlanta beat the Packers, 33-32. A touchdown from Matt Ryan to Mohamed Sanu with 31 seconds left was enough to give the Falcons the one-point win in a back-and-forth battle.
The Bucs had won two straight and looked to be on their way to a third straight win before the Oakland comeback on Sunday. The Raiders set an NFL record with 23 penalties and the Bucs still couldn't get over the hump. Key was the Tampa defense, which gave up 626 yards of total offense. They gave up a 513-yard performance to Derek Carr, who was 40-for-59 passing with no picks. He wasn't pressured very much and the Tampa secondary was obviously not at their best. And they weren't terribly clutch. Late in the fourth, Tampa gave up a game-tying TD to the Raiders. Then late in overtime, they gave up a huge play in the pass on 4th down as Oakland sealed the deal.
Still, Tampa was able to hang in there despite being outgained at a better than 2-to-1 rate. Oakland's penalties were a key part of keeping them from unleashing the full scope of their offensive prowess. And Tampa hung in there with some decent offensive play. Jameis Winston was not terribly prolific, with just 180 yards through the air. But he threw for two touchdowns and the Tampa offense didn't turn over the ball. With Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson, and others out, the Tampa offense is not at its best. Jacquizz Rogers made some nice runs, but the rushing game was not up to snuff. Mike Evans and Adam Humphries made some nice catches, while Cameron Brate and Russell Shepard each hauled in TD grabs. But they went long stretches without much production and that ended up costing them.
Again, the Bucs' defense was pretty shabby on Sunday with Oakland putting up crazy numbers. Still, they held the formidable Oakland offense to three first half points. But as has been the case at other points this season, when the situation is at its most critical, this defense is not able to respond. And that lack of clutch is what cost them on Sunday. At the end of the day, whether because of injuries or inconsistent play, the Tampa defense fails to play at the level that their ample talent would suggest.
The Falcons really needed the win on Sunday. First, they beat a quality opponent in the Packers. And they came from behind to do it. Despite a slew of positive signs this season, they were on the verge of falling to 4-4 on the season before staging the comeback to go to 5-3. On Sunday, we saw the Falcons continue applying a multi-pronged approach where any number of different players can step up to get you.
Matt Ryan is running this offense smoothly and was in-step on Sunday on 28-for-35 passing and three TD throws. Though Julio Jones is the top dog in the offense, we keep seeing Ryan spread it around to a bunch of different guys. On Sunday, Taylor Gabriel, Sanu, Austin Hooper, Jacob Tamme, and others also made contributions. Devonte Freeman ran for a TD and also caught a TD pass, while Terron Ward added some big runs. Look for this diversified approach to keep paying off. While fans and backers might call out for bigger doses of Jones and Freeman, they are building great depth on this side of the ball.
The Atlanta defense is not the best. The offense usually camouflages the ineptitude of this side of the ball, but it's a definite liability. The one good thing is that they sometimes make big plays, whether it be with the pass-rush or big plays in the secondary. Other than that, they give up a ton of yards, particularly against the pass. They've given up 30 or more five times already this season, including in each of their last two games. Still, holding Green Bay to one second half score was key in helping the Falcons avoid their third straight loss.
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Atlanta wasn't at their best when they went into Tampa to play the Bucs in week one to open this season. They fell behind 31-13, with drives stalling out and no follow-through once in the red zone. Atlanta held Tampa to under 300 yards of total offense, but Tampa was resourceful and capitalized on their opportunities. Winston threw four TD passes. But the Tampa cast is a little more depleted now, so we'll see how it translates in the Georgia Dome. Watching the game in week one, however, it was clear the Bucs matched up pretty well against the Falcons.
Tampa may have fallen short on Sunday at home to the Raiders, but they are a team that is trying hard. They may not have been very clutch late against the Raiders, yet one should expect a robust effort from Tampa. A loss here makes it hard to come back and make a run in a wide-open NFC South. The Atlanta offense may have a greater potential to explode on a given day, but I see a close game in Tampa where taking the points seems like a good idea.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers plus 3 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up and betting the Atlanta vs. Tampa Bay game at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!