The Spread and Total
Atlanta Falcons (-6.5, 48 O/U) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, courtesy of Bovada.
Atlanta Falcons 8-5 SU (6-7 ATS); 3rd NFC South
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-10 SU (3-9-1 ATS); 4th NFC South
RB Tevin Coleman (concussion), out; G Andy Levitre (triceps), out; WR Mohamed Sanu (knee), probable.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
LB Lavonte David (hamstring), out; CB Vernon Hargreaves (hamstring), out; DT Gerald McCoy (biceps), out; DT Clinton McDonald (back), questionable; T Donovan Smith (shoulder), questionable; G J.R. Sweezy (shin), questionable.
Nov. 26, 2017 (Mercedes Benz Superdome, Atlanta): Atlanta 34, Tampa Bay 20
Nov. 3, 2016 (Raymond James Stadium, Tampa): Atlanta 43, Tampa Bay 28
Sep. 11, 2016 (Georgia Dome, Atlanta): Tampa Bay 31, Atlanta 24
Dec. 6, 2015 (Raymond James Stadium, Tampa): Tampa Bay 23, Atlanta 19
Nov. 1, 2015 (Georgia Dome, Atlanta): Tampa Bay 23, Atlanta 20 (OT)
Significant ATS Trends
The Falcons have covered in four of their last five games.
Since 2016, Atlanta is 5-3 ATS as a road favorite.
The Falcons are 6-2 ATS in their last eight games against NFC South opponents.
The Bucs are 2-4 ATS in their last six night games.
The total has gone UNDER in eight of Tampa’s last nine home games.
Dirk Koetter’s Suck-aneers are playing out the string of the franchise’s most disappointing season in recent memory. Expectations were so high, based on the potential explosiveness of a passing game with Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. But in his third season, a year in which Jameis Winston should have taken a huge step forward and joined the conversation as one of the league’s better passers, Famous has instead joined the Joe Flacco tier. Tied for 20th in Pro Football Focus’ QB Rankings, Winston has shown poor accuracy this season, particularly against the blitz, where he ranks 28th.
It’s unfair to pin all of Tampa’s problems on Winston: this team is also cursed at the kicker position and relies on a boom or bust defense that either generates a takeaway or allows a touchdown. However, because Koetter was given the coaching job in order to get the most out of the young QB, he’s going to be held responsible for this dismal season. The Bucs have said they stand behind their coach, and the best way to show that is to win down the stretch and at least make the decision on Koetter’s future tough on Tampa’s ownership.
Unfortunately, there’s little evidence that the Bucs can be an effective spoiler in this spot: they’ve yet to even cover this season against an opponent with a winning record.
As for the Falcons, even though none of yesterday’s results knocked them out of the playoff picture, with huge games against Carolina and New Orleans looming, this isn’t an opponent they can overlook. New England took Miami for granted last week, and Jay Cutler had a randomly great outing to bury them. Like Cutler, Winston is a threat to have a random awesome game whenever he can resist the temptation to make dumb throws. So this week could pose another good test for a Falcons defense that has been very stingy over the past few weeks. Or it could just be a confidence booster as a secondary that has only four picks on the year gets to hunt some ducks.
Led by Deion Jones, Atlanta stymied the league’s most efficient run game last week, holding the New Orleans Saints to just 50 yards on the ground. This came on the heels of holding Minnesota’s powerful offense to 14 points. Last season, the Falcons’ young defense peaked down the stretch and helped put this team over the top. While Atlanta’s offense isn’t the record breaking unit it was in 2016, this is still a team no one wants to face come playoff time.
Ranked eighth in offensive DVOA heading into this Week 15, and led by matchup nightmare Julio Jones, the concerns surrounding the lack of creativity in Steve Sarkisian’s offense have been quelled. Now the only thing to worry about is how Matt Ryan will respond to an abysmal outing against New Orleans. After a three-interception outing against Detroit earlier in the season, Ryan followed up with two more interceptions in a loss to the Bills: you can’t always chalk it up to “one bad game.”
These last few weeks of the year, you always have to be wary of bad teams playing the spoiler role. Tampa was a preseason playoff darling for a reason: they have a pretty talented roster. They also played the Falcons close(ish) on the road a few weeks ago with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm, losing 34-20.
However, thanks to some crucial injuries on the Bucs D and my lack of confidence in Koetter as a coach, I can’t justify backing Tampa here. An encouraging sign is that favorites have gone 9-3-1 against the spread this week (with a pair of pick’ems), so it looks like playoff bound teams are focused and ready to go.
Pick: Falcons (-6.5) and UNDER (48).