Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Monday, December 18, 2017, 8:30 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Raymond James Stadium – Tampa Bay, Florida
Opening Line: Atlanta -4
Current Line: Atlanta -6 1/2 (-120)
Opening Total: 47 1/2
Current Total: 48 1/2
Opening Money Line: Falcons -235 / Buccaneers +195
Current Money Line: Falcons -300 / Buccaneers +250
The 8-5 Atlanta Falcons currently hold the last playoff spot in the NFC, but three teams (the Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys) are only a half game behind. The Falcons travel to the 4-9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Monday night. Both teams trail the 10-4 New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers in the NFC South.
The series between the Falcons and Buccaneers is tied at 24-24. The Falcons have won two straight games in the series including 34-20 in Atlanta November 26. Before the Falcons won two straight, the Buccaneers had won three straight in the series.
Atlanta is coached by Dan Quinn. The Falcons have road wins over the Chicago Bears 23-17, Detroit Lions 30-26, New York Jets 25-20 and Seattle Seahawks 34-31, plus home wins over the Green Bay Packers 34-23, Dallas Cowboys 27-7, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-20 and New Orleans Saints 20-17 last Thursday. The Falcons have home losses to the Buffalo Bills 23-17, Miami Dolphins 20-17 and Minnesota Vikings 14-9, plus road losses to the New England Patriots 23-7 and Carolina Panthers 20-17. The Falcons have won four of the last five games. Atlanta was a 2.5 point favorite against New Orleans and the total was 51.5. The Falcons are 6-7 ATS and the total is 5-8 this season.
Tampa Bay is coached by Dirk Koetter. The Buccaneers have home wins over the Chicago Bears 29-7, New York Giants 25-23, and New York Jets 15-10, plus a road win at the Miami Dolphins 30-20. The Buccaneers have lost three straight games. Tampa Bay has road losses at the Minnesota Vikings 34-17, Arizona Cardinals 38-33, Buffalo Bills 30-27, New Orleans 30-10, Falcons 34-20, and Green Bay Packers 26-20 in overtime. The Buccs have home losses to the New England Patriots 19-14, Carolina Panthers 17-3, and Detroit Lions 24-21 last week. Tampa was a pick against Detroit and the total was 47.5. The Buccaneers are 3-9-1 ATS and the total is 7-6 this season.
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Atlanta is outscoring teams 23-20 this season. The Falcons are #9 in points allowed. The Falcons average 364 yards per game on offense including 247 passing yards and 117 rushing yards. Atlanta is #11 or better in all three categories. On defense, Atlanta allows 320 yards per game including 212 passing and 108 rushing yards. Atlanta is #11 or better in all three categories. The Falcons are 74/164 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 74/177. Atlanta has forced 34 sacks and allowed 17 this season. The Falcons are -5 in turnovers and have both scored and allowed 2 defensive touchdowns.
Quarterback Matt Ryan has completed 65.9% of his passes for 3,278 yards with 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, plus 24 carries for 93 rushing yards. He has been sacked 17 times. Ryan won the MVP last year but has struggled somewhat this season.
Running back Devonta Freeman has 152 carries for 680 yards and 6 touchdowns and also has 20 catches for 144 yards. Tevin Coleman has 139 carries for 593 yards and 5 touchdowns, and also has 21 catches for 245 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is out with a concussion. Tarron Ward will get the back-up carries without Coleman.
Receiver Julio Jones has 73 catches for 1,161 yards and 3 touchdowns. Mohamed Sanu has 54 catches for 578 yards and 5 touchdowns, and also threw a touchdown pass. He is probable with a knee injury. Tight end Austin Hooper has 41 catches for 461 yards and 3 touchdowns. Taylor Gabriel has 30 catches for 342 yards and a touchdown. Justin Hardy has 15 catches for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns. Five defensive players and two offensive linemen are listed on the injury report for the Falcons.
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Tampa Bay is being outscored 24-20 this season. The Buccaneers average 354 yards per game on offense including 262 passing and 92 rushing yards. The Buccs are #11 in total offense, #6 in passing and #27 in rushing. Tampa Bay allows 389 total yards per game including 276 passing and 113 rushing. The Buccaneers are #31 in total offense and last against the pass. Tampa Bay is 65/166 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 86/183. The Buccs have forced 17 sacks and allowed 30 this season. Tampa Bay is +4 in turnovers and has three defensive touchdowns. The Buccaneers have allowed two defensive touchdowns.
Quarterback Jameis Winston has completed 62.6% of his passes for 2,475 yards with 14 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, along with 22 carries for 79 rushing yards. He has been sacked 23 times this season. Ryan Fitzpatrick started a few games for an injured Winston. Fitzpatrick completed 58.9% of his passes for 1,103 yards with 7 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, plus 15 carries for 78 rushing yards. He has been sacked 7 times.
Running back Doug Martin has 129 carries for 402 yards and 3 touchdowns, plus 9 catches for 84 yards. Peyton Barber has 65 carries for 248 yards and two touchdowns, plus 9 catches for 77 yards. Jacquizz Rogers has 63 carries for 242 yards and a touchdown, plus 7 catches for 54 yards. Charles Sims has 89 rushing yards on 19 carries, but does have 30 catches for 224 yards and a touchdown.
Receiver Mike Evans has 129 catches for 402 yards and 3 touchdowns. DeSean Jackson has 49 catches for 657 yards and 3 touchdowns. Tight end Cameron Brate has 38 catches for 492 yards and 6 touchdowns. He is questionable with a hip injury. Adam Humphries has 46 catches for 435 yards. Tight end O.J. Howard has 25 catches for 402 yards and 5 touchdowns. Chris Godwin has 23 catches for 298 yards. Ten defensive players and five offensive linemen are on the injury report.
The favorite is 7-2 ATS in this series recently.
For Atlanta, this is virtually a must win game as they face the Saints and Panthers after this. Tampa Bay looks to play spoiler. Tampa’s main problem this season is they are terrible on defense, especially against the pass. Even though the Falcons haven’t been nearly as explosive on offense this year as last year when they won the NFC Championship, they are still capable of putting up big numbers. I like the Falcons to win convincingly to keep sole possession of the #6 seed.