Thursday Night Football: Bucs at Falcons

Thursday Night Football: Bucs at Falcons

Get ready for another chapter of subpar NFL football on Thursday night when the 0-2 Bucs travel to Atlanta to face the 1-1 Falcons. Neither team impressed in Week 2, but at least the Dirty Birds have a viable excuse, playing on the road against one of the league’s top defenses. Tampa lost at home to the Rams, who were quarterbacked by some guy named Austin Davis. Both of these NFC South rivals played on the Thursday night stage in 2013; Atlanta knocked off New Orleans at home, while the Bucs were hammered by the visiting Panthers. What can we expect from tonight’s proceedings, besides ugly football on a woefully short week? Here’s a look.

TAMPA BAY AT ATLANTA -6.5

Through two games, the Josh McCown signing loos like a bad one for Tampa. Both of McCown’s starts have netted less than 200 yards passing. The good news is Atlanta’s defense ranks dead last in total yards allowed and 31st in passing yards allowed. Can McCown exploit this glaring weakness with Vinnie Jackson and rookie Mike Evans? Well, if he doesn’t, the Bucs are in big trouble on the Georgia Dome’s fast track. Doug Martin might be back from injury, but he’s not very good, so Bobby Rainey (who ran for 163 yards in this meeting a season ago) is lying in wait to get the bulk of the carries. If Gerald McCoy can’t go with his busted hand, the Bucs’ pass rush will struggle to attack Atlanta’s vulnerable offensive line.

The Falcons are lucky to have a potent offense that ranks second in total yards to help buoy their pathetic D. Matt Ryan was awesome in Week 1, terrible in Week 2. Like Drew Brees, Ryan is much more effective on home turf. The Bucs secondary is very suspect after being abused by Derek Anderson and Austin Davis in consecutive weeks. With better weapons than either of those teams, Ryan should be able to carve them up, although Thursday nights are often problematic for signal-callers. Roddy White is gimpy again, but he is expected to suit up and play despite the limited rest.

Ryan is 8-4 versus Tampa in his career, including 6-0 at home. Under normal circumstances, meaning a full week of preparation, this game would be a blowout. The Falcons should still win comfortably, but it won’t be at all surprising if the Bucs hang around deep into the third quarter. Ryan and Co. will take some time to dust off the funk they picked up in Cincinnati. A matchup to watch will be Julio Jones against Alterraun Verner. The latter had trouble with Kelvin Benjamin in Week 1, so Jones could be in store for a huge evening.

Tampa is 0-5 ATS in their last five on the road. Atlanta is 6-2 ATS in their last eight, 4-2 ATS at home. Unless Ryan gets turnover happy, the Falcons should cover. It’s hard to trust the Falcons’ awful defense, but McCown doesn’t pose much of a threat.

Bet Atlanta -6.5