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Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Preview and Pick
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Preview and Pick
The Atlanta Falcons started this season as contenders that could win everything this year after coming one game from going to the Super Bowl a year ago. However, 10 weeks into the season, it is very clear that the Falcons are not the same team we thought they were. The Falcons head into Tampa Bay to take on Buccaneers who is struggling this season as well, but if the Falcons lose this game they will indeed have hit rock bottom. How bad has Atlanta been this season? Just look at the opening odds.
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Odds
The opening NFL point spread for this game shows that the Buccaneers, that’s right, the Buccaneers are (-6.5) point favorites. That is amazing and shows just how far that the Falcons have fallen. This line will change leading up to kick off so keep an eye on the point spread at many of the top rated online sportsbooks.
The Falcons looked lifeless against the Seattle Seahawks this week. The Falcons lost for the sixth time in seven games, a team that once had Super Bowl aspirations now just two defeats away from its first losing season since 2007. Matt Ryan was held to 172 yards passing, while Steven Jackson managed just 11 yards rushing on nine carries. Roddy White returned to the Falcons' lineup after missing the past month with ankle and hamstring injuries, but one catch for 20 yards hardly sparked the offense. Seattle finished with a dominating 490-226 lead in total yards. This is another sign of just how far the Falcons have fallen and why they may lose this game to the Buccaneers.
The latest football betting trends for this game reveal some interesting trends for this game. The total has gone under in 4 of Atlanta's last 5 games when playing on the road against Tampa Bay and the total has gone under in 4 of Atlanta's last 5 games on the road. Atlanta is 8-2 straight up in its last 10 games when playing Tampa Bay but just 4-8-1 against the spread (ATS) in its last 13 games when playing Tampa Bay. Atlanta is 1-5 straight up in its last 6 games on the road and 1-6-1 ATS in its last 8 games on the road. Tampa Bay is 2-3-1 ATS in its last 6 games when playing Atlanta and 2-8 straight up in its last 10 games when playing Atlanta overall.
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pick
With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.
Mike Smith is not giving up on the Falcons’ season, just as he wouldn’t give up in the closing minutes of a lopsided loss to Seattle.
Smith was criticized for exposing quarterback Matt Ryan and others to injuries by leaving them on the field late in Sunday’s 33-10 loss to the Seahawks. The coach said he wouldn’t abandon the idea of trying to win.
Similarly, Smith said Monday he hasn’t given up on the season even when three consecutive ugly losses have left the Falcons 2-7.
They already have matched the high mark for losses in Smith’s first five seasons – a 9-7 finish in 2009. Atlanta trails first-place New Orleans by five games in the NFC South.
Smith said he’s heard plenty of negative talk about the outlook for the remainder of the season, including this week’s game at Tampa Bay.
“This season is not over,” Smith said. “I know people want to say doom and gloom. That’s not the case. We’ve not played the type of football that we’d like to play in the first nine games. It is well below our expectations and we’re going to continue to work and get ready to play the Buccaneers.”
Smith said there must be improvement on both lines and in the running game.
In his third game since returning from a hamstring injury, Steven Jackson was held to 11 rushing yards on nine carries. Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch ran for 145 yards and a touchdown.
“I think we did not win the physical battle ... they won that handily,” Smith said. “I felt like they won the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football. That’s where games are won and lost.”
As a result, Jackson often had no chance.
“Of course I’m frustrated,” Jackson said.
“The thing about it is you have to keep chipping away. No one is going to come in the locker room and save us. We have to save ourselves. ... We can’t dwell on it. One thing about being a professional, you have to acknowledge the things you made a mistake on and move on to the next one.”
Left tackle Sam Baker was held out with a knee injury. He has missed five games this season. He played on Nov. 3 against Carolina but couldn’t stay off the inactive list two straight weeks.
“Yes, it is a concern when you’re not able to play consecutive games,” Smith said.
Smith said linebacker Sean Weatherspoon will be activated off the injured reserve list by Wednesday. Weatherspoon, one of the defense’s leaders, has been out since hurting his foot the second week of the season.
Smith said he had no update on tight end Tony Gonzalez, who briefly left Sunday’s game with a toe injury.
The Falcons have been hit hard by injuries during their disastrous start. The defending NFC South champions have no credible ground game, forcing Ryan to average 41 pass attempts. Six of Ryan's 10 interceptions have come in the fourth quarter and Atlanta's defense has been awful on third down, yielding a success rate of 47.5 percent. After finishing plus-13 in turnover ratio last season, the Falcons have been atypically sloppy in 2013.
Tampa Bay's 15-0 lead against Miami evaporated Monday night before the Bucs rallied for their initial win of the season, posting their first home victory in exactly one year. The offensive line opened up consistent holes for a depleted backfield and the Bucs set a franchise record by allowing only two rushing yards. One key area that needs improvement is offensive production in the third quarter, where Tampa Bay has scored only 10 points all season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally put an end to their skid, but it came far too late to salvage their season.
Things also appear lost for the Atlanta Falcons, whose last win came against Tampa Bay four weeks ago.
The Buccaneers hope to build on their first victory and avoid a ninth loss in 11 meetings to the visiting Falcons on Sunday.
Tampa Bay (1-8) became the league's final team to win with Monday's 22-19 victory over Miami. After blowing a 15-0 lead, the Buccaneers got the go-ahead score with Bobby Rainey's 1-yard TD run to cap an 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter. The defense then sealed the win with Darrelle Revis' interception with 1:35 to play.
Coach Greg Schiano is optimistic his players will be able to play more relaxed moving forward.
"Getting it out of the way, I don't care who you are, as the losses mount getting that (first) one win becomes harder and harder (to get)," Schiano said. "I hope now that our guys can just go out and play. Although they've said there's no additional pressure, I think human nature puts that pressure on yourself."
Atlanta (2-7) hasn't won since a 31-23 victory over Tampa Bay in Week 7, dropping three games by a combined 61 points including a 33-10 defeat to Seattle last Sunday.
For a team that posted a 56-24 regular-season record over the last five years under coach Mike Smith - second only to New England - being all but eliminated from the playoff hunt is an unfamiliar spot for the Falcons. Smith received some criticism for leaving quarterback Matt Ryan and other stars in late against the Seahawks despite the lopsided deficit.
However, he isn't so ready to surrender despite the fact that Atlanta only clings to a minute chance of reaching the playoffs.
"This season is not over," said Smith, whose previous worst record was 9-7 in 2009. "I know people want to say doom and gloom. That's not the case. We've not played the type of football that we'd like to play in the first nine games. It is well below our expectations and we're going to continue to work and get ready to play the Buccaneers."
The Falcons have been ineffective on the ground in the last three weeks despite the return of Steven Jackson, averaging 56.3 rushing yards per game as a team with no scores. A knee injury to left tackle Sam Baker hasn't helped their cause.
Atlanta, which averages an NFL-worst 64.3 rushing yards, was held to 18 yards on 18 carries last month against Tampa Bay.
"The thing about it is you have to keep chipping away. No one is going to come in the locker room and save us. We have to save ourselves. ... We can't dwell on it," said Jackson, who was held to 11 yards on nine carries against Seattle. "One thing about being a professional, you have to acknowledge the things you made a mistake on and move on to the next one."
The lack of an effective running attack and big deficits have also left more pressure on Ryan and the passing game. Ryan has posted a 61.6 passer rating over his last three games with three TDs and seven interceptions.
Perhaps facing Tampa Bay can help him get back on track given he was 20 of 26 for 273 yards and three TDs in the first meeting.
Unlike Atlanta, the Buccaneers' running game appears to be heading in the right direction. Although Mike James broke his ankle Monday to join Doug Martin as the team's second back to suffer a season-ending injury, Brian Leonard and Rainey proved to be a potent duo, combining for 102 yards on 28 carries. Tampa Bay was coming off a season-high 205 rushing yards against Seattle.
The Falcons should be bolstered by the expected return of linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who hasn't played since Week 2.
Tight end Tony Gonzalez's status is still uncertain after he momentarily left Sunday's contest due to a toe injury.
Coaxed out of possibly retiring, the future Hall of Fame tight end decided to spend one more season with the Atlanta Falcons in hopes that this will finally be the year he gets a chance at a Super Bowl title.
Well, the Falcons are an abysmal 2-7 and chances of at least capturing a wild card berth are pretty much lost. Still, they have to move on and continue this tumultuous season, which resumes Sunday against the just-as-lowly and NFC South rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.
Gonzalez was rumored to be on the trading block so the athletic pass catcher can link on with a contender. With the trading deadline now past that's not going to happen and Gonzalez is sticking it out with Atlanta, which has lost three straight.
Last year's No. 1 seed in the NFC and division champion, the Falcons were handed a 33-10 beating at home by the Seattle Seahawks Sunday in a rematch of last year's divisional playoffs. Gonzalez caught three passes for 29 yards and injured a toe on his left foot in the second half. Gonzalez said he couldn't play full speed, but was able to fight through pain.
"Usually when you have injuries, you can get through it through the game. Then the next day after it calms down and swells up a little bit, then that's when the trouble starts," Gonzalez said afterward. "So, we'll see how goes. Tomorrow, I'm going to wake up, and hopefully it's not that bad."
If Gonzalez is unable to go, that will leave quarterback Matt Ryan without three healthy targets. Julio Jones is already finished with a foot problem, Roddy White isn't 100 percent because of a hamstring and now Gonzalez. White had one reception for 20 yards against Seattle and was playing for the first time since an Oct. 7 loss to the New York Jets.
Harry Douglas led the corps with seven catches for 49 yards and Ryan completed 23 of his 36 pass attempts for 172 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons are off to the worst starts since going 1-6 in 2007, 1-7 in 2003 and 2-9 in 1999, and any speculation that head coach Mike Smith's job is in jeopardy went out the window following Sunday's loss.
"Mike Smith is a hell of a football coach; he's the leader of this team," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told ESPN.com. "Mike's going nowhere."
You know what else is going nowhere? Atlanta's running game. It's the worst in the league at 64.3 yards per game and hasn't been able to carry its own weight amid the passing struggles. Veteran Steven Jackson has been limited to five games and ran for 11 yards on nine rushes versus the Seahawks. The Falcons aren't going to instill fear in opposing defenses with a hobbled Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers, who leads Atlanta with 251 yards on the ground.
The Falcons hope to get left tackle Sam Baker back from injury and he has been bothered by a knee issue. Lamar Holmes went back to playing left tackle and Jeremy Trueblood took over the right side.
"Yes, it is a concern," Smith said of Baker's health and the mix up across the line. "When you can't go out and play consecutive games, you have to be concerned about it. Sam's doing everything he can in terms of getting back out there and we wanted to make sure that he's 100 percent before we put him back out on the football field."
The Buccaneers got off the schneid with Monday night's 22-19 win over the Miami Dolphins. They are no longer the only winless club in the NFL and played a satisfactory game to prevail for the first time since last Dec. 30.
With Doug Martin on injured reserve, Brian Leonard carried the rushing load with 57 yards on 20 carries after Mike James was lost with a fractured ankle. Bobby Rainey got some reps as well and tallied 45 yards and a score on eight touches. Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon passed for 139 yards with a touchdown and interception, and talked about the ground game.
"I think Mike (James) got off to a great start. First try with him, he went down the field. But Brian Leonard has been around for a long time and he's a very good football player and we all knew what he was capable of," Glennon said. "Then Bobby Rainey really stepped up. He's only been here for a few weeks, these are really his first meaningful reps and to do what he did shows that he is a real special player. It looks like they are going to have to step up. I think between those two, they did a really good job."
Glennon still hasn't emerged as a franchise quarterback, but played safe enough to lift Tampa Bay to victory. Bucs head coach Greg Schiano was pleased to end the slump.
"It's a good feeling to be able to stand up here after a win," Schiano stated. "I'm really proud of our guys. It had that same feeling going down the back stretch, and our guys bowed up and made some plays in the clutch to win the game. That's something much needed and something that we'll build on now moving forward."
Tampa Bay, which opened the 2009 campaign 1-12, was able to stop a seven-game losing streak at home and amassed 264 total yards versus Miami, a franchise that entered Monday's game in turmoil because of the recent bullying scandal among two of its offensive linemen. It didn't seem to bother the Bucs, as they posted two sacks, an interception and four passes defensed. The Bucs had the two sacks on the Dolphins' final drive to thwart any comeback.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay seems to have itself a running-back-by-committe going on now with Martin and James gone. The Bucs did sign Michael Hill off the Packers' practice squad.
The Falcons and Bucs split two meetings last season, while Tampa Bay has lost eight of the last 10 in the series, including a 31-23 setback back on Oct. 20. The Bucs are 1-4 at home, while Atlanta is winless on the road this season (0-4) and has won three of four at Tampa Bay.
The all-time series between theses NFC South foes is even at 20-20.
The Falcons still have to slow down Tampa Bay's solid committee of running backs and failed to that against the Seahawks Sunday. Of Seattle's 490 yards of offense, 211 came on the ground thanks to Marshawn Lynch, who ran for a season-high 145 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Some speculated that Atlanta's defense was flat from the start.
"No, I don't feel like we came out flat," Falcons DT Jonathan Babineaux said. "First of all, I felt like we had a great week of practice and believed that we could get the victory leading into the game. The first couple of series we held their offense to just six points. We played hard today but just didn't make enough plays in the game to beat that ball club. We just have to continue to get better as a football team."
Babineaux could have his wish granted with the pending returning of star linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. Weatherspoon has been out since a foot injury in Week 2 against St. Louis and NFL rules has kept him sidelined until now. The versatile and tenacious Weatherspoon will definitely help a disenchanted Atlanta defense and Smith agrees.
"It'll be a big help to our defense," Smith said. "Sean, through his play since he's been here, has earned a leadership role. He is one of our best players. He's got a great attitude. He's a guy that can inspire his teammates, so it'll be good to have him back out on the field."
Weatherspoon is expected to practice this week and his return will shake up Atlanta's linebacker corps, but only for the better. He has eight tackles on the season and registered 96 stops in 2012, one year after a career-high 115 tackles.
Tampa Bay played well on defense Monday to reach the win column for the first time in 2013. Will the effort carry over against a Falcons team that still has enough firepower to rip off a few wins in a row?
Well, the Bucs allowed just two yards rushing to Miami and the Falcons dreadful running the football, so there shouldn't be a problem there. White will have another week to heal for Atlanta and hopes to have the same success Dolphins receiver Rishard Matthews had on Monday, when he caught 11 passes for 120 yards and a pair of scores.
The Falcons have the pleasure of facing one of the best in Bucs cornerback Darrelle Revis, who feels the team's confidence will grow after the first win.
"A win cures everything. We've been 0-8 and been struggling to get wins this year, but it (feels) good to get our first win. Especially at home, (where) the fans were into it, it was Veterans Day," Revis said. "It was an emotional game for us and we knew the type of game it was going to be on Monday night as well. It's great; it's great for the fans. It's going to give us confidence to move forward week in and week out."
In the week of Oct. 20, Falcons wide receiver Douglas ripped the Bucs' secondary for 149 yards and a touchdown on seven catches.