Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#289 Atlanta Falcons vs.
#290 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, September 19, 2021 at 4:05pm EDT
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
Written by Nathaniel Reeves

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NFC South rivals will meet for a Week 2 matchup on Sunday afternoon when the Atlanta Falcons visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Atlanta will hope to bounce back from a horrendous opener as it lost 32-6 as a 3.5-point home favorite to the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday. Tampa Bay won its season opener last Thursday in a 31-29 home victory over the Dallas Cowboys, although it did not cover as a 10-point favorite.

The Falcons hold a slim 28-27 advantage all-time in the divisional rivalry, although Tampa Bay completed the two-game sweep last year including a 44-27 home win in Week 17.

Line Movements & Weather

Tampa Bay has gone from -8.5 up to -12.5 at most sportsbooks, despite grabbing just 56% of the bets.

The OU line has gone from 52 down to 51.5 at most shops with the Over grabbing 52% of the bets.

Gametime Weather: Scattered thunderstorms are expected with temps in the mid to lower 80s.

Atlanta searching for answers after opener

While few expected the Falcons to be much of a contender this year under first-year head coach Arthur Smith, nobody thought they would be completely dismantled by the Eagles on both sides of the ball last weekend. Atlanta drove down to the goal line twice early in the game only to settle for short Younghoe Koo field goals, and that would be it for the offense as the Eagles scored the last 25 points of the game.

Matt Ryan struggled to get much going downfield, completing 21 of his 35 pass attempts for 164 yards while getting sacked three times. Cordarrelle Patterson had one of the few standout games for the Falcons offense with seven carries for 54 yards and two catches for 13 yards. Javon Hargrave had two tackles for loss and two sacks, but the Falcons couldn't much otherwise as Philadelphia piled up 434 yards of total offense.

“I did a really poor job getting us ready to go,” Smith said to the Associated Press after his first game as a head coach following two years as the offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. “That game is not going to define us. It’s a long season to go, but I certainly didn’t do a good enough job getting us ready to go today.”

Atlanta went 7-9 against the spread last season including 1-1 in the matchups with Tampa Bay and now starts this year off with a huge outright loss as a favorite. Sunday's opener fell well short of the betting total of 49 points, making it now six unders in the last eight games for Atlanta.

It was a disappointing showing for a Falcons offense that was at least still respectable last season despite the 4-12 team record with an average of 24.8 points and 368.4 yards per game. Atlanta's defense still clearly has a ton of work to do after allowing 25.9 points and 398.4 yards per contest in 2020.

No. 4 overall pick Kyle Pitts entered the season with unprecedented expectations for a rookie tight end but got off to a modest start with four catches for 31 yards. Mike Davis was brought in to help the ground game and had just 15 carries for 49 yards, although fellow newcomer Patterson picked up some of the slack. Safety Duron Harmon was the top free-agent addition on the defensive side and played well last weekend with seven tackles including one for loss.

Atlanta's already thin offensive line has dealt with injuries, as tackle Matt Gono (undisclosed) and center Josh Andrews (hand) both went on the physically unable to perform list prior to the season opener. Cornerback Kendall Sheffield is on injured reserve after making 20 starts the last two years. Backup quarterback A.J. McCarron tore his ACL in the preseason. Wide receiver Frank Darby (calf) was the only new addition to the injury report this week, although he is expected to be available Sunday.

Injury Report

Out - WR Frank Darby, DB Kendall Sheffield, OL Josh Andrews, and OT Matt Gono

Brady leads another game-winning drive as Bucs survive

It was far from easy for the reigning Super Bowl champions in the league opener last Thursday, but the Buccaneers managed to start their title defense with a wild victory over the Cowboys. Tom Brady tossed touchdown passes to Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, and Antonio Brown in the first half, and a second score from Gronkowski at the midway point of the third finally gave Tampa Bay some breathing room with a 28-19 lead. Dallas would still keep coming and took a one-point lead with just 1:24 to go, only for Brady to lead an 11-play, 57-yard drive to set up Ryan Succop's game-winning field goal.

Brady showed no signs of slowing down in his age 44 season, completing 32 of 50 passes for 379 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions while leading his 49th career game-winning drive. Godwin and Brown went off, combining for 14 catches, 126 yards and two touchdowns. Tampa Bay managed to survive despite allowing 451 yards of total offense while turning the ball over four times.

“As I told our guys, I learned a long time ago we don’t learn anything more from losing than you do from almost losing, We’ve got a lot to learn,” coach Bruce Arians said to the Associated Press. “Obviously not pleased with the start of the game, Loved the finish. Our guys are winners, They’re going to finish.”

Tampa Bay starts off the 2021 season with a loss against the spread after covering in seven of its last nine games in 2020, including the Super Bowl as a slight underdog against the Kansas City Chiefs. After overs went 9-7 for the Buccaneers last season, Thursday's opener went over the betting total of 52.5 points.

The Buccaneers offense dominated last year with an average of 30.8 points and 385.3 yards per game. Tampa Bay's defense also started to roll near the end of the season, finishing with 22.2 points and 327.1 yards allowed per contest.

With every starter back from the Super Bowl roster, there's not much room for new contributions, although a full year of Brown could make a difference after he caught 45 passes for 485 yards and four touchdowns in eight games in 2020. The Buccaneers also have high hopes for rookie first-round linebacker Joe Tryon, who made two tackles against the Cowboys.

There are a few injury concerns for Tampa Bay after corner Sean Murphy-Bunting exited the opener and went on injured reserve with an elbow problem, although safety Jordan Whitehead is expected to make his season debut on Sunday which helps the secondary. Edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul did not practice on Thursday with a hand problem.

Injury Report

Out - LS Zach Triner, DB Sean Murphy-Bunting, LB Cam Gill, OG John Molchon, and WR Justin Watson

Questionable - DB Carlton Davis and LB Jason Pierre-Paul

Best Bets for this Game

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This has the potential to get ugly in a hurry, as the Falcons looked like one of the worst teams in the NFL in the opener while Tampa Bay remains loaded with talent all over the field. Tampa Bay's defense will perform much better this week as last Thursday was more about Dallas having an elite offense than any concerns for the Buccaneers, while Atlanta is going to get dominated in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

The Falcons offensive line has been a sieve for what feels like forever and with injuries already piling up in 2021, the unit struggled against Philadelphia as Matt Ryan was one of the most pressured quarterbacks in the NFL in Week 1. Tampa Bay's defensive front is a lot better than Philadelphia's, as stars like Devin White and Vita Vea helped the Buccaneers record a strong 6.82% sack rate in 2020.

There's also the fact that the Buccaneers have a still excellent Brady with a loaded supporting cast on the other side, and Atlanta gave up 6.5 yards per play to a limited Philadelphia offense last weekend. A few teams out there are good enough to challenge Tampa Bay, but Atlanta isn't one of them and will get put away early on Sunday.

Prediction: Buccaneers -12.5

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There's too much talent for Atlanta's offense to look quite that bad going forward, and Smith proved to be a good enough coach with the Titans to make a few adjustments. Tampa Bay's injuries in the secondary clearly played a role last week after Murphy-Bunting went out as it had to dig deep down the depth chart, and the likes of Calvin Ridley and Pitts can do some damage.

The Buccaneers could be even better offensively this season as Brady has a true offseason with his new team under his belt, as they piled up 6.7 yards per play against Dallas and probably won't turn the ball over four times again. Atlanta's passing game will be just good enough to get this over the total, considering Tampa Bay should get to 35+ points yet again against this Falcons defense.

Prediction: Over 52
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Written By Nathaniel Reeves , "Nathaniel Reeves"

Nathaniel Reeves is an avid sports fan with degrees in journalism from the University of Washington and statistics from Western Washington University. He's always had a passion for applying statistical analysis to sports betting and has successfully handicapped college football, college basketball, and Esports for years. Nathaniel has endured being a lifelong fan of the Seattle Mariners, along with the Seattle Seahawks, UW Huskies and soon to be Seattle Kraken. He has been a very successful sports bettor the last several years and we are thrilled that Nate has chosen to bring his talents to us here at Winners & Whiners. You would be very wise to follow him daily.