Falcons vs. Buccaneers Odds & Picks: Don’t Expect Fireworks In Atlanta
Chris Graythen/Getty Images. Pictured: Tom Brady
Falcons vs. Buccaneers Odds
The Buccaneers were able to walk away with a win in Week 14 despite being out-gained by the Vikings. This has been a trend for Tampa Bay, as the team has been out-gained in four of its previous five games.
At 8-5 with the playoffs around the corner, the Bucs need to figure out how to have a more productive offense so the Tom Brady gamble isn’t a wasted effort.
For the Falcons, a late Matt Ryan turnover cost them a Week 14 victory over the Chargers. A hamstring injury to Julio Jones left the Falcons with Russell Gage and Calvin Ridley as reliable options, and they accounted for 206-of-263 yards receiving. Now Atlanta will once again be missing Jones this week.
With both teams showing lackluster performances recently, betting on either side seems risky. However, betting the total could provide value.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Since their blowout victories against the Packers and Raiders, the Buccaneers’ play has left something to be desired, and they’ve gone 3-3.
Over that stretch, all losses have come against teams with winning records while all wins have come against teams with losing records. With three games remaining, the Bucs need to figure out what holds them back against teams with winning records. Luckily, their final three games come against Atlanta (twice) and Detroit — two teams they can try things out against but still should have no problem beating.
The biggest hole for the Bucs is handling the blitz. Brady has a quarterback rating of 78.8 against the blitz compared to 101.5 against a normal pass rush, per Pro Football Reference.
The Falcons will provide a good measuring stick for Tampa Bay’s improvement here as they rank top-10 in pressure rate, per Pro Football Reference.
Solving the blitz became more important this week after starting running back Ronald Jones was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Without him, the Buccaneers’ running game is in the hands of Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy, both of whom average fewer than 4.0 yards per carry.
While Ridley is the Falcons’ only major receiving threat remaining, stopping him will be no easy task.
Carlton Davis will likely be in charge of slowing down the Falcons’ young star. While Davis looked like the next great corner from Weeks 4 through 8 — he never allowed a quarterback rating higher than 65 when targeted — his play has fallen off in recent weeks, allowing quarterback ratings higher than 100 in four of the last five games.
The Falcons enter Week 15 after losing their last two games by one possession. They’ll have to get over some hurdles if they want to break that trend against the Bucs.
In his most recent three games, running back Todd Gurley has received eight or fewer rush attempts. This has largely been due to his lack of production considering he’s averaged fewer than 3.3 yards per carry since Week 5.
In his place, Ito Smith has been much more productive, averaging 4.6 yards per carry since Week 5. However, against Tampa Bay’s top-ranked rushing defense, it may not matter who has the ball.
With the run game limited, the ball will be in the hands of Ryan to carry Atlanta’s offense. Unfortunately, in games without Jones, this has not gone well. The Falcons average 313 pass yards per game when Jones plays at least 50% of snaps, but only 218 pass yards per game when he plays less than 50% of snaps.
With the offense in a bad position, Atlanta will need all the help it can get from its defense. Fortunately, since their bye, the Falcons’ defense has shown improvement as their pass defense has not allowed more than 250 yards.
The coverage unit will be without No. 2 corner Darqueze Dennard, but stopping Brady requires creating pressure more than excellent coverage. Thanks to Grady Jarrett, Pro Football Focus‘ 10th-best defensive tackle, Atlanta will create the necessary discomfort for Brady.
At 8-5, there would need to be a large meltdown for the Bucs to fall out of the playoff picture. With that cushion, addressing their deficiencies will be the focus of the next three weeks.
This will likely be a multi-week trial-and-error process. Until their issues are solved — particularly against the blitz — this offense will continue to not be as dominant as it should.
Atlanta’s offense has seen a drastic drop-off when Julio Jones is missing from the starting lineup. While Ridley has shown he can fill in as the lead receiver when Jones is out, no one has stepped up to fill the second option behind him.
With both offenses in shaky spots, betting the under is the way to go.
Pick: Under 49 (down to 48.5)