NFL odds this week have Atlanta as 10.5-point underdogs to the division-leading Buccaneers. Even though the Falcons have lost three out of their last five games, they are still in the NFC playoff hunt.
So if you are wondering if the Atlanta Falcons have a chance of covering this week at home, keep reading. Here’s a closer look at the numbers for this divisional matchup.
Last week, Matt Ryan was 19-29 with one touchdown and one interception for 190 yards against the Jaguars. Those are not outstanding numbers against a 2-8 Jacksonville team, but the Falcons did get a boost from the running of Cordarrelle Patterson.
Patterson had his best game of the season against the Jaguars. His 108 yards was the most he’s gained on the ground this season. He also had two rushing touchdowns for the first time this season and caught two passes for 27 yards.
Patterson might have problems duplicating those results this week. Tampa Bay has the 8th ranked defense in total yards and they’re 1st in the NFL against the run. The last time they played the Buccaneers, Patterson rushed seven times for 11 yards. He did play an important role in the passing game, however, with five receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown. I’d expect Matt Ryan to look to Patterson and the other running backs again to combat the Buccaneers pass rush.
Matt Ryan will need to find a way to counter Tampa Bay’s blitzes this game. The Bucs blitz more often than any other team in the NFL (38.8% of dropbacks), which could lead to rushed throws and turnovers. Matt Ryan has already equaled the interceptions he threw last season with eleven. Three of those interceptions came in Week 2 when the Falcons lost to the Bucs 48-25. However, he’s taken only 21 sacks, which is a slight improvement on last year’s pace of 41 sacks.
On defense, The Falcons have struggled this year. They are 31st in points against, last in the NFL in sacks, and 22nd in yards allowed. The only category where Atlanta is better than Tampa Bay is in passing yards against per game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady’s squad is still one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl this year. And with Leonard Fornette carrying a heavier load, Brady doesn’t need to light it up in the air to get wins against solid opponents. Last week against the Colts, the veteran had his first 100-yard game of the season with 100 yards and three touchdowns.
The Bucs lead the NFL in passing yards per game (305.9) and points per game (31.5). One of the main reasons for the Buccaneers’ success through the air is their pass protection. Tampa Bay has only allowed 15 sacks, which is tied with Minnesota for the fewest sacks in the NFL.
The Tampa Bay defense ranks in the middle of the pack in total yards, but they are 1st in NFL against the run. The Bucs are also 4th in interceptions, presenting challenges for the Falcons’ offense.
Tampa Bay has a healthy lead in the NFC South, but they still have a chance to gain a higher seed in the NFL playoffs, so there’s still plenty of motivation for this squad.
Buccaneers vs. Falcons (+10.5)
On Sunday, a win in Atlanta could put Tampa Bay back in the race with their NFC rivals for the top seed. Yet the Bucs won’t need the juggernaut offense like usual to beat the Falcons. That’s where the 10.5 point spread gets interesting.
One thing that concerns me about this spread is the thought that Tampa Bay could jump out to an early lead and allow a garbage-time touchdown to bring the Falcons to within the spread. Matt Ryan has led the team to three fourth-quarter comebacks this season.
The Atlanta Falcons are playing for their playoff lives. I expect Cordarrelle Patterson and Mike Davis to be used in the passing game more than as runners to help Atlanta maintain control of the ball and keep Tom Brady off the field. Still, the Atlanta defense will need a significant effort to keep the Buccaneers at bay.
Can The Falcons Cover?
I don’t believe that the Atlanta Falcons can win this game, but I’m taking Atlanta to cover the 10.5 points even though they’re likely to lose.
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