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NFL Betting: Buccaneers vs. Falcons Thursday Night Preview

Posted by Stan Jenkins on 9/18/2014 3:32:32 PM

The Atlanta Falcons got pounded last weekend by the Cincinnati Bengals, and after they suffered through a bad 2013 season, such a result could point to more problems.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons - Thursday, September 18

The Falcons were torn apart by the Cincinnati Bengals in week two, even though Cincinnati lost receiver A.J. Green due to injury during that game. Cincinnati’s defense was too much for Atlanta’s offense. The Falcons could never really gain a foothold in that game, and they didn’t come particularly close to threatening the Bengals in the second half. By getting dominated up front, the Falcons recalled much of their 2013 season, in which their offensive line became a bunch of paper tigers, unable to repel onrushing defenders from quarterback Matt Ryan, who was excellent in week one against the New Orleans Saints and showed why, when given time, he’s one of the better quarterbacks in the league, right behind the top layer of superstars. The Falcons have a lot to be concerned about, and since they were so bad last season, they cannot expect to have things go well for them in this game.

What’s lucky for the Falcons is that they’re getting the perfect opponent at the perfect time. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t just 0-2. They’ve lost to two mediocre teams at home. Tampa Bay faced the Carolina Panthers in a game when the Panthers were playing without starting quarterback Cam Newton. Derek Anderson, a career backup with a few occasional game starts under his pelt, filled in for Newton and beat the Buccaneers in Tampa. The Bucs couldn’t muster much of any offense until it was too late. Carolina built a 17-0 lead and held on for a 20-14 win.

This past week, in week two, a very similar situation transpired for the Bucs. The opponent was the St. Louis Rams, but not the Rams with their best quarterback, Sam Bradford. In the preseason, Bradford was knocked out for the regular season with an injury, forcing the Rams to go to backup Austin Davis. Tampa Bay’s first-year head coach, Lovie Smith, is a great defensive coach with longtime experience as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. Tampa Bay’s strength was supposed to be defense, and while neither Carolina nor St. Louis scored more than 20 points against the Bucs, those two teams were both able to score more than 17. Tampa Bay should have figured that it could hold at least one of those teams, if not both, to somewhere in the range of 10 to 14 points. Yet, the Bucs couldn’t do that. A total of 20 points (Carolina) and 19 points (St. Louis) were enough to beat the Bucs, who scored a total of just 31 points in those two games combined. Tampa Bay played two home games against two teams with backup quarterbacks, and could beat neither of them. This is how weak the Bucs are right now, especially on offense. Atlanta is poised to win this game with Matt Ryan at home.

Pick: Falcons -6.5

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