Monday Night Football Picks: Falcons Control Their Destiny
Dirty Birds Positioned To Clean Up
The Atlanta Falcons sit in the catbird's seat. They control their own destiny in terms of the NFL playoff race, and at this point of the season, that's all any team can ask for.
In the case of the Falcons, the math is simple - sweep their final three games - Monday at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dec. 24 at New Orleans and Dec. 31 home to the Carolina Panthers, and the Falcons will again capture the NFC South crown that they utilized a year ago to launch their run to victory in the NFC Championship Game.
Of these three games, winning the battle over the Bucs would seem the easiest of the three contests, but will it be? Let's analyze the possibilities, based on the odds being offered by Bovada.
Atlanta Falcons (-280) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+240)
The Falcons were established as solid road favorites in this game, and why wouldn't they be? The Buccanneers fell 24-21 at home last week to the Detroit Lions, and have lost three in a row, including a 34-20 decision Nov. 26 at Atlanta. The Falcons are 4-2 on the road this season and have won two of three, three of five and five of their last eight at Tampa Bay's Raymond James Stadium. The Buccaneers are 3-3 at home, their wins coming at the expense of the Bears, Giants, and Jets, not exactly the cream of the NFL crop.
The Falcons will be without two key offensive components in running back Tevin Coleman (concussion) and guard Andy Levitre (triceps), but they beat the Saints last week minus Levitre and after losing Coleman during the game. Devonta Freeman went for 91 yards on 24 carries in Coleman's place against New Orleans. The Bucs defense is missing a trio of starters on defense in Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (biceps), linebacker Lavonte David (hamstring) and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (hamstring).
Atlanta has won two in a row from Tampa Bay and scored 77 points in the process. Falcons receiver Julio Jones lit up the Buccaneers in their first meeting this season, catching 12 balls for 253 yards and two touchdowns. Bucs coach Dirk Koetter jokingly suggested he was going to assign 10 defenders to cover Jones this week. The Falcons are the NFL's best third-down conversion team (46 percent) but own an unsettling minus-five turnover ratio.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston missed that game through injury, but he turned the ball over three times in last week's loss to the Lions. Tampa Bay's five turnovers in that setback were the most committed by the team in a game since 2011. There has been talk of friction between Winston and Koetter over Koetter's play calling.
Tampa Bay's defense is 31st overall (389.3 yard per game) in the NFL and 32nd in pass defense (276.1) and that latter stat figures to be music to the ears of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. The Buccaneers are also last in the NFL in sacks (17), meaning Ryan should be allotted plenty of time to sit in the pocket and pick them apart. Meanwhile, Atlanta's defense sits in the top 10 in total yards (seventh), passing yards per game (sixth), scoring (ninth) and yards per play (ninth).
Missing the playoffs a year ago via a tiebreaker, the Buccaneers had high hopes this season but at 4-9, have been eliminated from playoff contention. How much they will have left in the tank for this one, especially against a well-rested Falcons team that hasn't played since a week ago Thursday is questionable.BABB Pick: Atlanta (-6.5), over (48.5) Bovada
Category : Betting Picks
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