A huge NFC South divisional clash takes place in the NFL’s twelfth Sunday of 2012 as the 9-1 Atlanta Falcons take on a surprising Tampa Bay Buccaneers side that’s firmly in a playoff battle.
The Bucs will look to keep their good fortune going against an explosive Falcons side. Tampa Bay entered the 2012 campaign a bit of an enigma with so much roster turnover and the introduction of new head coach Greg Schiano. Through eleven weeks though, it’s clear they aren’t the same soft group that folded near the end of 2011. This is a tough football team that plays solid defense, and has grown into a solid offense with Josh Freeman and Vincent Jackson. They’ve put themselves in a favourable position for the remainder of this season, and a win over Atlanta may give the Bucs thoughts of a division crown. A big issue for Tampa entering this clash is the play of their pass defense. Against a team like the Falcons that could be a major weakness, and having safety Ahmad Black and cornerback Eric Wright both injured won’t make things any easier.
For the Falcons, they’ve been mired in a bit of a mini-slump in recent weeks. After dropping their first game of the season against the New Orleans Saints in Week 10, Atlanta turned in a horrid performance last week as they narrowly escaped with a victory against a poor Cardinals squad. Matt Ryan was awful, throwing five interceptions, and is eagerly awaiting a chance for redemption against the Bucs this week. If Atlanta is to get back on track, they’ll need to find a way to stop Bucs’ rookie running back sensation Doug Martin, and get their health back in order. Star receiver Julio Jones has been hobbled in recent weeks, and though he’s played parts of the past few games, his ankle is clearly still bothering him. With Jones questionable this week, the offense remains a question mark. Add in the fact that Atlanta must deal with other key absences like linebacker Sean Weatherspoon’s illness and cornerback Asanta Samuel’s shoulder injury, and a lot of uncertainty has all of a sudden seeped into a vulnerable Atlanta side.
Falcons vs. Buccaneers Betting Odds:
Atlanta Falcons -1 (-110)
@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers +1 (-110)
Over 50 (-115)
Under 50 (-105)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Falcons vs. Buccaneers Pick:
It will be very interesting to see how this heated contest will play out. With the Falcons looking nowhere near how they have in recent weeks, the Bucs have to like their chances entering this one. Tampa Bay is a team on an upward trend and Greg Schiano’s new coaching techniques have this team primed for a run at a playoff spot. That said, picking an outright winner here remains too much of a coin-flip, especially when you’d have to go against the 9-1 Falcons and an angry Matt Ryan. The better play here seems to favour a wager on the Over 50 points.
Both these teams have shown in recent weeks the potential for explosive offenses. Josh Freeman is playing unreal, as is his number one target Vincent Jackson, and on the other side, Matt Ryan can be as good as any quarterback in the league when he wants to be. Considering how injury-depleted and awful both pass defenses have been as well, it does seem like this contest has serious potential for a lot of points.
Atlanta should be able to move the ball all day long against the Bucs. Tampa Bay has proven to be decent at stopping the run, but with their injuries in the secondary and overall incompetence at defending the pass, expect a huge bounce-back outing from Matt Ryan. Atlanta simply has far too many weapons at key positions to not be effective. Look for a huge outbreak from an Atlanta attack that has been stagnant in recent weeks. Tampa has the 30th ranked pass defense in the NFL, conceding 8.2 yards per completion and the Falcons will be licking their chops come Sunday afternoon.
On the other side, the Bucs have been simply explosive of late. They’ve been particularly sharp in the red-zone as well, converting sixty-seven of their opportunities into touchdowns, ranking third in the NFL. Freeman has thrown 16 touchdown passes in just his last 6 games and has built a scary rapport with Vincent Jackson, creating nightmares for opposing secondaries. The Falcons, like the Bucs, struggle against the pass, ranking 20th in the league at defending it. Expect Freeman and Jackson to connect more than a couple of times Sunday, especially with Weatherspoon and Samuel’s statuses in doubt. Atlanta also struggles heavily at defending the run, ranking an abysmal 30th in the league in that category. Doug Martin has been dynamic of late for the Bucs, and should have no trouble picking up yards against a soft Falcons’ defense.
Expect an abundance of points in what seems like a perfect recipe for a high-scoring affair. Two explosive offenses take on two soft and injury-riddled defenses. This will be a tight game, but it will also be a shootout. Something along the lines of a 33-30 shootout seems fitting for Sunday afternoon in central Florida.
PICK = Over 50 (-115)