Bucs-Falcons Betting Preview: Trust Jameis Winston in His First Start of the Season?

Bucs-Falcons Betting Preview: Trust Jameis Winston in His First Start of the Season? article feature image

Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) drops back as Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (97) pressures during the first half at Raymond James Stadium.

Betting odds: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons

  • Spread: Falcons -3
  • Over/Under: 57
  • Time: 1 p.m. ET
  • Channel: FOX

>> All odds as of Friday morning. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NFL odds and track your bets

Betting market: One of the more interesting lines of the week, 66% of bettors are backing the Falcons. Sportsbooks are basically split 50/50 as to where they have the line, with half posting Atlanta -3 (-120 range) and the other half posting Atlanta -3.5 (+100 range).

There hasn’t been enough sharp action on either side to cause much line movement, but it’s not surprising that two-thirds of bettors are backing Atlanta as such a small home favorite in Jameis Winston’s first start back with the Bucs. — Mark Gallant

Trends to know: After losing three straight, the Falcons are small favorites at home. But Matt Ryan has underperformed in this situation during his career.

As a small favorite of fewer than three points, Ryan is 6-17-1 against the spread, including the playoffs, according to our Bet Labs data. — John Ewing

The Buccaneers are coming off of a bye ahead of their matchup with the Falcons. Since 2003, teams coming off a bye have a distinct split against the spread as an underdog compared to when they are favored when facing a divisional opponent.

  • As a favorite: 48-36-2 ATS (+10.4 units, 57.1%)
  • As an underdog: 32-47-1 ATS (-17.2 units, 40.5%) — Evan Abrams

Which team is healthier? Buccaneers

The Falcons have failed to slow down essentially every offense they’ve faced since starters Deion Jones (foot), Ricardo Allen (Achilles) and Keanu Neal (knee) were sent to the injured reserve list. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (ankle) is expected to miss another week, and the offense might have to play without Devonta Freeman (foot).

Meanwhile, the Buccaneers are expected to mostly be healthy and could even welcome back tight end O.J. Howard (knee), who managed to get in a pair of limited practices to start the week.

Note: Info as of 6 p.m. ET Thursday. See our Injury Dashboard for daily practice participation and game statuses up until kickoff. — Ian Hartitz

Biggest mismatch: Buccaneers passing offense vs Falcons passing defense

The Bucs offense ranks fifth in pass DVOA, and the Falcons defense ranks 28th. With wide receivers Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin, plus and tight end Cameron Brate, the Bucs have one of the league’s best receiving units. Meanwhile the Falcons’ defense is in disarray, especially in the secondary.

Backups Jordan Richards and Damontae Kazee will be filling in the gaps. Richards has allowed a 70% completion rate across his four years in the league, as has Kazee, a second-year fifth-round pick.

Without their starting back-end defenders, the Falcons are more vulnerable to the deep pass, and no team has been more aggressive throwing downfield this season than the Bucs, who have two starting wide receivers (Jackson, Evans) with top-tier average depth of targets (16.2 and 15.2, respectively).

If the Bucs put pressure on the Falcons safeties by letting Winston throw deep, Evans and D-Jax in particular could have massive performances. — Matthew Freedman

DFS edge: Julio Jones’ price has dropped back below $8,000 on DraftKings, which typically leads to high ownership.

He’s currently projected for 31-40% ownership in our FantasyLabs Models, and it’s likely warranted given his 30% target share and the favorable matchup.

The Bucs have been torched through the air this year, allowing 9.4 yards per attempt, 13 passing touchdowns and 358.0 passing yards per game — all the worst marks in the league.

Jones’ 20.9-point median projection is the second-highest mark among all receivers on the main slate. — Justin Bailey

Bet to watch: Falcons -3

I’ll happily be on the square side here and back the Falcons at home laying only three points, especially since I grabbed it at plus money (always shop for the best number).

This line implies that the Falcons and Bucs are dead even if you assume three points for home-field advantage.

The Falcons’ defense has been horrid — one of the worst in the league performance-wise through the first five weeks of the season.

However, the Bucs have been THE worst, as they have allowed an NFL-high 7.0 yards per play, a truly shocking figure.

Not only does Football Outsiders rank Tampa as the worst defense in the league, but it also grades the Bucs’ pass defense as the 32nd-ranked unit, which spells doom vs. the Falcons passing attack.

There are a few reasons for optimism in Atlanta. This will mark the first time all season they will have the same starting lineup in consecutive weeks. Jarrett could also return, which would help the defensive front.

In a game featuring two desperate teams with explosive offenses and bad defenses, I’ll side with a Falcons team that will simply make fewer mistakes and keep the sticks moving more consistently.

Atlanta has turned it over a league-low three times, and converted 47% of third downs (second in NFL) after leading the league last year at nearly 45%.

Another factor working in Atlanta’s favor is red-zone execution. Despite a horrid red-zone display in Week 1 at Philadelphia, Atlanta still ranks in the top 10 overall, scoring a touchdown on 65% of trips inside the 20 (including an uber-efficient 11-for-13 at home).

Conversely, Tampa’s predominantly vertical passing attack has struggled inside the 20 to the tune of 50%, which is tied for 19th in the league.

And guess which defense has the worst red zone TD% in the NFL? You guessed it. The Bucs with a comical 92.31% TD% allowed.

In a game where both teams will move the ball at will between the 20s, turnovers and settling for field goals will be devastating. The Falcons have the upper hand in both categories.

It’s tough to adjust for how bad this Falcons defense will continue to be after the injuries, but I’m willing to pay to find out. Expect the veteran Ryan to save the Falcons’ season (for now) with a home win. — Stuckey

Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.