The Atlanta Falcons haven’t beaten the NFC South rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers three straight times since the start of the decade but can accomplish that with a victory Monday night to close Week 15.
The Falcons, of course, are defending NFC champions and probably should be defending Super Bowl champions but instead had the biggest choke job in that game’s history against the Patriots back in February. Atlanta may not get any chance to get back there without a victory here.
Point Spread and Betting Analysis
In Week 12, the Falcons were 10.5-point favourites against the Bucs and won 34-20. Julio Jones single-handedly destroyed Tampa Bay by catching 12 balls for 253 yards and two scores. Only one of those TD passes was from Matt Ryan, who threw for 317 yards. The other was a 51-yarder from fellow receiver Mohamed Sanu on a trick play. Perhaps the Falcons should use Sanu, who played quarterback in college at Rutgers, more often? In his NFL career, he’s 6-for-6 passing for 228 yards and three touchdowns – a perfect 158.3 rating.
The Bucs were down 27-3 midway through the third quarter but made things interesting with two Peyton Barber TD runs. Down 27-20, they got to the Atlanta 18-yard line with seven minutes left but were stopped on downs. The Falcons then went down the field and scored the winning TD. Tampa’s QB that day was backup Ryan Fitzpatrick with Jameis Winston sidelined due to a shoulder injury.
The favorite is 7-2 against the spread in the past nine meetings.
The Falcons (8-5 SU, 6-7 ATS) were in a must-win game Thursday night at home vs. New Orleans and edged the Saints 20-17. Linebacker Deion Jones had a monster night (13 tackles, three tackles for loss, two passes defensed) and capped it with an interception of Drew Brees in the Atlanta end zone with 1:25 to go – the Saints were basically no worse than facing overtime at that point had Brees not been picked off. It was Brees’ first red-zone interception of the season and just Atlanta’s fourth overall.
Ryan was picked off three times himself for the Falcons and finished with a league-low rating of 55.2. The Falcons could miss the playoffs entirely or even repeat as division champions depending on what happens the final three weeks. This is by far their easiest game remaining – thus another must win — as they visit New Orleans in Week 16 and host Carolina to close the regular season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa (4-9 SU, 3-9-1 ATS) lost a third straight Sunday, 24-21 at home to Detroit. The Bucs did rally from a 21-7 fourth-quarter deficit to tie it at 21-21 on a Leonard Wester 2-yard TD reception from Jameis Winston but lost on a 46-yard field goal with 20 seconds to go. Winston also had a touchdown pass to O.J. Howard but was intercepted twice and lost a fumble. Those turnovers led to 14 Detroit points. Tampa gave it away five times overall.
The Bucs were a nine-win team last year and many expected them to take another big step forward in 2017, but Winston has regressed a bit. He also missed a few games due to injury. Winston has turned the ball over 53 times in 42 career games, the second-most in the NFL since his 2015 rookie year. The Bucs’ best defender, Pro Bowl tackle Gerald McCoy left Sunday in the second quarter with a right shoulder/biceps injury so that’s something to monitor this week.