Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
Time: NOON (CT) – FOX
Spread: ATL -1
M/L: ATL -133, TAM +113
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Atlanta Falcons finished 8-8 last season, and for the first time in the seven seasons under Matt Ryan, the Falcons finished outside the top-20 in scoring (just 21.2 points per game, No. 21), while finishing No. 7 in total yardage (374.4 per game).
To have such a disparity between yardage and scoring is disturbing for the Falcons who have rode Ryan for four very expensive seasons since he led them to the NFC Championship game in 2012 and earned a hefty four-year deal.
Check out our NFL odds page for instant line updates on every game.
Ryan struggled at times last season and the Falcons turned it over 30 times, the fifth worst in the NFL. Ryan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan are still developing together, and WR Julio Jones is still one of the best at his position for Ryan to launch it to.
Devonta Freeman had a strong 2015 breakout year, but the Falcons will need more still from him this season. He carried just 65 times in 2014 and Atlanta also drafted Tevin Coleman in the third round of the NFL draft. Freeman had three TDs and 141 yards in Week 3 last year against the Dallas Cowboys, and it proved to be the start of a good season for him as he finished with 1,056 yards and 11 rushing TDs, which was tops in the NFL. The Falcons are a bit thin, but also have FB Patrick DiMarco to work in.
Julio Jones set career highs in receptions (136), receiving yards (1,871) and yards per game (116.9) last season. He led the league or was tied in all categories. He is just entering his prime at 27 years of age, and Ryan is a good enough QB to exploit his immense talents, evidenced by last season. The problem is that there is not a ton of talent around Jones.
Free agent signee Mohamed Sanu will be counted upon heavily, and Justin Hardy is a good No. 3 receiver. Devin Hester and Eric Weems will be used more on special teams. Jones alone gives Ryan a premier option, but he needs help if the Falcons are to be much better than .500 again.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished 6-10 last season and in last place in the NFC South. Things will likely look much the same this year, even if Jameis Winston is a premier headliner for the Bucs’ offense. Winston became only the third NFL rookie to throw for over 4,000 yards, but his mechanics still do need some work and given Dirk Koetter’s propensity towards big plays, his completion percentage may always linger a little on the low side. But he needs to complete at least 60 percent this season, and the Bucs have Mike Glennon behind him if Winston happens to struggle some.
Shop and compare the best online sportsbooks with our sportsbook review page.
Doug Martin is one of the best RBs in the league when he is healthy. Charles Sims is a good backup and provides strong insurance should Martin encounter any injuries, though. Martin gained 906 of his 1,402 yards after contact last season, and the Bucs are hoping that his power and Sims’ speed could prove a tough tandem for opposing defenses.
FB Dan Vitale will also see some touches, but he functions well as a lead blocker and could even see some snaps at TE this season. When the Bucs do make Vitale a receiving option, look for RB/FB Mike James and TE Luke Stocker to do the blocking for Martin and Sims.