Buccaneers vs. Falcons Odds & Picks: The Smart Way To Invest In Tampa Bay
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: Tom Brady, Matt Ryan
Buccaneers vs. Falcons Odds
Incentives matter more than anything else in Week 17. More than injuries, more than talent, more than coaching and game plans — incentives reign supreme. And the Buccaneers will be supremely motivated to win this game.
The Bucs have already clinched a playoff berth and cannot win the division, so they’re only playing for seeding at this point. On the surface, that may not seem like much. But in the NFC, seeding is everything.
A Tampa win would lock in the 5-seed, and the 5-seed gets to play the terrible NFC East division-winner. Win this game, and the Bucs will be comfortably favored. Lose, and they could drop to a road game in New Orleans or Seattle, where they would be sure underdogs.
The Falcons’ season has been over for some time now, but the Bucs need a win here — you could argue that the NFC’s 5-seed is the most valuable outside of the two No. 1 seeds.
Week 17 is as close to a bye as it gets. The Bucs could rest Tom Brady and see what the playoffs bring, but they’d rather win here and rest him in the second half of an easy playoff win next week.
But can Atlanta play spoiler?
The Falcons are 4-11 but are much more dangerous than their record would let on: They’ve lost seven times by one score, including against these Bucs two weeks ago along with the Chiefs, Saints, Bears and Cowboys.
The Falcons always seem to find a way to lose, but they also never make it easy on the opponent.
Atlanta started 0-5 but has been a respectable 4-6 since, even with a brutal schedule and all the close losses.
The Falcons have been the same team in many ways for a couple years now. They can stop the run but don’t run the ball well at all, and can pass the ball but can’t defend the pass. They rank top five in passing yards and rarely turn the ball over, but the defense has allowed the second-most passing yards.
Atlanta will also be without star wide receiver Julio Jones again — he hasn’t played for a month with a hamstring injury. And while the Falcons are good enough to stay in this game without Jones, they’re also bad enough to blow it.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs continue to look underrated and extremely dangerous. Even though Tampa Bay can finish no better than the 5-seed, the Bucs rank second in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ weighted DVOA, which measures the overall strength of a team with an emphasis on more recent games.
The Bucs also rank first in Pro Football Reference’s Simple Rating System, another overall measurement.
The Bucs are really good, and they’re good at almost everything.
Tampa Bay ranks fourth in DVOA on both offense and defense. The defense has been the more consistent unit and ranks first in the NFL at stopping the run, though that strength is lost on a Falcons team that can’t run the ball, anyway.
Tampa ranks top-five against the pass in DVOA, too, and its pass offense also ranks top-five.
It’s that passing attack with Brady, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski that should be enough to win the day against an overwhelmed Atlanta pass defense.
The Bucs are an excellent football team. When they’re good, they’re really good. They crushed the Packers earlier this season — Green Bay’s only really bad game of the year — and a win here could set Tampa up with a rematch at Lambeau in Round 2.
The Bucs also scored 45 or more points three times this season against the Raiders, Panthers and Lions. When the Bucs are right, they can be absolutely deadly. But that Packers win is also Tampa’s only win against a winning team all year, as the Bucs are 1-5 overall in such games. Then again, that includes losses by 1, 3 and 3.
The Bucs’ only real bugaboo has been a poor special teams unit and two disastrous games against the division-rival Saints. But the Falcons aren’t the Saints.
Atlanta tends to play teams close before falling late, and it’s done that time and again this season.
This division rivalry has a similar history: Eight of the last 11 meetings between these teams has been within one score, and Atlanta has actually won six of the last eight games between them.
The Bucs want this win, though, and they’re very good and have the ability to blow these Falcons out — but recent history tells us Atlanta could stay in this game and make things interesting.
There’s one other wrinkle — if the Rams lose to the Cardinals on Sunday, the Bucs will lock into the 5-seed regardless of their outcome. Considering L.A. is playing a backup quarterback who’s never played before, there’s always the chance that the Rams could be getting blown out at halftime, which could push Tampa to rest its own guys in the second half.
This stuff is complicated.
I like the Bucs, and I feel pretty good about them doing what they have to in order to secure the No. 5 seed, but that could mean a close win that doesn’t cover (or even a loss) if the Rams lose ugly.
If the Falcons take a lead here, I’ll be looking to live bet the Bucs moneyline in-game if I can get that around even odds.
But I have a better play: The Bucs’ Super Bowl odds. If I’m confident that they’ll wrap up the 5-seed, then I’m also more confident they’ll surviving next weekend.
That also likely sends them to Green Bay, a matchup Tampa Bay has shown it can handle. The Bucs also played the Chiefs within a field goal a month ago.
As a 5-seed, it’s entirely conceivable that the Bucs are the biggest threat to win the Super Bowl outside of the top-seeded Chiefs and Packers. I’m playing my confidence in the Bucs by grabbing their +1200 Super Bowl odds — the Bucs would beat an outmatched NFC East opponent next week, and once they’re down to the final eight teams, you won’t find anything close to +1200.
Play Tampa ML live if you get a good look, but otherwise. look big picture on this one and see if Tom can get one more ring.
Pick: Bucs to win Super Bowl +1200