The Atlanta Falcons won two more games last season than Tampa Bay did, but the Bucs swept the season series with their NFC South Division rivals. The Falcons try to flip the script in their season opener on Sunday. It’s the final season opener for the team at the Georgia Dome as it moves to a new stadium next year. The Falcons are favored on NFL odds.
How To Bet on the Tampa Bay at Atlanta Week 1 Expert Pick, Odds & TV Info
Tampa Bay vs Atlanta Historic Betting Trends
These clubs played in Week 8 last year at the Georgia Dome and Tampa Bay won 23-20 in overtime. Taking advantage of four turnovers, Tampa Bay jumped to a 17-point edge on the Falcons before winning in OT when Connor Barth kicked a 31-yard field goal and the defense stuffed the final drive. Matt Ryan tied the game for the Falcons on an 8-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones with 17 seconds left in regulation. After the Barth field goal, Atlanta’s offense got a chance in overtime but didn’t even make it to midfield.
In Week 13 last year in Tampa, the Bucs won 23-19. Jameis Winston threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans with 1:39 remaining to put Tampa Bay ahead for good. Lavonte David sealed the win, intercepting Ryan’s pass intended for Jones on the first play of Atlanta’s final possession.
Why Bet on Tampa Bay?
Winston looks like he will be a superstar sooner rather than later. The Bucs are in their second year in a Dirk Koetter offense that finished fifth in the league last year, and all signs point to Winston having a strong sophomore campaign. He improved his conditioning, altered his footwork, is showing better chemistry with Mike Evans and Adam Humphries, and he passed for 259 yards and two touchdowns against the Browns in the third preseason game. The Bucs could get two or even three more wins with some new additions they’ve made to a defense that gave up 70 percent completions last year and 46 percent of third-down conversions.
It appears the Bucs will have two injured starters for this game. Right guard Ali Marpet was going through drills with his teammates during the 30-minute portion of practice that was open to the media Monday. He missed the third preseason game with an ankle injury, but shed his walking boot last week. Strongside linebacker Daryl Smith, who had an undisclosed injury that forced him to miss the secondand third preseason games, was practicing with the first-team defense.
The Bucs are a young team, averaging 25.7 years old. That’s 0.2 years younger than last year, and eighth overall in the NFL. The Bucs haven ranked in the top half of the NFL during every season since at least 2012.
On the defensive line, he Bucs are pinning their hopes on veteran newcomer Robert Ayers becoming a difference maker opposite of Jacquies Smith. Expectations are lofty for second-round draft pick Noah Spence, as well. In four preseason games Tampa Bay led the entire league with 16 sacks and 12 of those came from defensive linemen: 8.5 from ends and 3.5 from tackles.
Why Bet on Atlanta?
The Falcons will have Jones for this game. Jones, arguably the NFL’s best receiver, has been bothered by an ankle injury since the Week 3 preseason game against the Dolphins in Orlando. But he is expected to fully participate in practice on Wednesday. Coach Dan Quinn also said that defensive ends Dwight Freeney (back) and Adrian Clayborn (shoulder) were ready to participate fully after missing time in the preseason.
The Falcons did some reshuffling to the roster with the additions of three-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack and receiver Mohamed Sanu on offense, along with seven-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher Dwight Freeney on defense this offseason. Throw in young, talented rookies Keanu Neal, Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell, and the Falcons definitely have a new look going into 2016.
Facing the Buccaneers at home in the season opener might be the Falcons’ best chance for a win in the first six games. They have road games at New Orleans and Oakland, a home matchup with Super Bowl runner-up Carolina and then a brutal road back-to- back against Super Bowl champion Denver and Seattle to start the season
My Expert Pick
Lean Falcons and over the total on NFL lines.