I think some people saw the Bucs win 2 games in a row with Fitzpatrick and think that he may be “sparking the team.” I don’t buy it. They beat the Jets who were in a classic letdown spot and they only put up 15 points doing so. The Bucs haven’t been able to run the ball all year (Doug Martin averages 3.1 yards/carry) and their O-line has been mediocre at best. The Bucs averaged just 2.9 yards/carry against the Jets in their “big win.” Then the Bucs 30-20 win against the Dolphins last week was even more deceptive – Cutler threw a few awful interceptions that a college team would have picked off and Fitzpatrick worked with a short field after 5 different Miami turnovers. Then, after the Bucs went up 20-7 at halftime vs Cutler, Matt Moore comes in and ties the game 20-20 in the 4th quarter after lighting up the Bucs for 282 yards and a touchdown. Kenny Stills had 180 yards and Jarvis Landry added 95. The Bucs scored just 3 points the entire 2nd half before the game-winning field goal. Don’t be fooled by the 30 points the Bucs scored either– the Bucs recovered a fumble in the endzone as time expired after the Dolphins were throwing a bunch of desperate laterals.
I still see a team who hasn’t played well on either side of the ball this season and hasn’t generated a pass rush all year (1.5 sacks per game). The Falcons are still finding their rhythm themselves but they’ve made a lot of strides the past 2 weeks in wins over the Cowboys and Seahawks. They have scored 7 touchdowns their last 9 redzone trips and are 16 for 29 their last 3rd down chances. Julio Jones looked great last week as did Mohammed Sanu and Justin Hardy. On film it looks like the Falcons are turning the corner. Even without Devonta Freeman their offense ran well through Tevin Coleman and Terron Ward so I don’t see the Bucs slowing down Matt Ryan at all. I’m taking the faster defense who has 12 sacks the last 2 games and I’m banking on them to put pressure on Fitzpatrick in a game he is going to have to play above his normal standards to keep up. I’m not really concerned with these two teams knowing each other well in the division – we played the Saints -7 vs the Bucs three weeks ago and that was a 20 point rout. I think the Falcons open this game up just like the Saints and we get a cover.
Falcons -10, 2 units.