Neither the Atlanta Falcons nor Tampa Bay Buccaneers have anything to play for other than pride on Sunday as they close out their seasons from central Florida.
NFL Point Spread and Betting Analysis
With both the Falcons and Bucs finishing well under .500, expect major changes in both organizations. It’s widely expected that not only will Tampa head coach Dirk Koetter be fired, but the front office also could undergo an overhaul. The future of starting quarterback and former No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston is also up in the air. The Bucs could walk away from his rookie fifth-year option with no financial ramifications should they choose.
Atlanta was a playoff team last year so this was more unexpected. Coach Dan Quinn is reportedly safe, but he could be forced to make significant moves to his staff. Few teams have been hit harder by major injuries in 2018 than the Falcons. They were especially gutted on defence, which has been one of the NFL’s worst.
The one time the Falcons showed signs of life this season was a three-game winning streak to get to 4-4. The first of that streak was a 34-29 win over the Bucs. Matt Ryan, who has had a good year, threw for 354 yards and three touchdowns. That was the first game this year Winston started coming off a suspension. He threw for 394 yards and four scores but two picks. Turnovers – and off-field immaturity – have been his problem.
The favorite is 11-4-1 ATS in the past 16 meetings.
The Falcons have won back-to-back games following a five-game skid. They were 24-10 winners at Carolina on Sunday; Atlanta opened as an underdog but that line had a huge shift when the Panthers ruled out star QB Cam Newton. The Falcons ended up going off as field goal favourites. They picked off Carolina backup QB Taylor Heinicke three times. Ryan threw for 239 yards and three scores. No. 1 receiver Julio Jones was questionable with a hip injury but had a TD catch. He leads the NFL in yardage (1,539) and might play this week simply to ensure winning that title. Calvin Ridley also had a TD grab. It was the former Alabama star’s ninth, tying a franchise rookie record. The Falcons lost running back Tevin Coleman to injury so he’s likely sitting this one out.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs lost a third straight Sunday, 27-20 in Dallas. Winston is a talented guy but turns the ball over way too much. Both were on display against the Cowboys as he threw for 336 yards and a score but lost two fumbles, one of which was returned 69 yards for a touchdown. Winston is owed $20.9 million on his option for 2019 and it’s probably 50-50 on whether the Bucs exercise it. Tampa Bay had more than a few stupid penalties vs. Dallas, which is on the coaching staff. Receiver DeSean Jackson, inactive the previous three games, left early in the second half with a foot injury. Jackson isn’t expected to return next season.