A flat Week 1 was not foreseen but the schedule gods haven't done the Atlanta Falcons any favors in Week 2, as Arthur Smith's new team travels to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a week after an awful performance at home to begin the year.
While Atlanta is in need of a spark, Tampa Bay is coming off a hard-fought opening night win in which it got a little luck but nonetheless showed the heart of a champion.
Can the Bucs improve on their Week 1 performance to cover a massive spread against the Dirty Birds? Find out with our free NFL betting Falcons vs. Buccaneers picks and predictions for September 19.
Falcons vs Buccaneers odds
Odds via the Covers Line, an average comprised of odds from multiple sportsbooks.
This spread hit the board at Bucs -7 back in May but has continued to grow, jumping to 12.5 after Atlanta's ugly Week 1 performance. After getting as high as 14 early in the week, the line has settled at 12.5 after action on the Falcons. The total has remained relatively unchanged, with a total of 52.5 growing to 53 after Sunday, then coming back down to 52.
Use the live odds widget above to track any future line movements right up until kickoff and be sure to check out the full NFL odds before placing your bets.
Falcons vs Buccaneers picks
Picks made on 9/15/2021 at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.
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Falcons vs Buccaneers game info
• Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
• Date: Sunday, September 19, 2021
• Time: 4:05 p.m. ET
• TV: FOX
Falcons at Buccaneers betting preview
Be sure to monitor the gametime conditions with our NFL weather info.
Falcons: Kendall Sheffield CB (Out), Josh Andrews OL (Out), Deadrin Senat DT (Out), Frank Darby WR (Out).
Buccaneers: Sean Murphy-Bunting CB (Out), Khalil Davis DE (Out).
Find our latest NFL injury reports.
Betting trend to know
The home team is 6-2 ATS in the last eight meetings between the NFC South's Falcons and Buccaneers. Find more NFL betting trends for Falcons vs. Buccaneers.
Falcons vs Buccaneers predictions
Buccaneers -12.5 (-110)
Regular service was expected to resume in Tampa Bay this year, after the defending champs rolled it back with all 22 starters. It was regular service indeed on offense in Week 1, with Brady spreading the ball around with surgical precision while the tailbacks did their best to make (keep?) Bruce Arians red in the face with continued ball security issues.
On defense, some may have been disappointed with the number of points allowed but it was hardly a discouraging performance. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles continued to dial up blitzes at a high rate (on 51.7 percent of pass plays for the third-highest rate in Week 1) and they created a lot of pressure on Dak Prescott. However, the Cowboys' QB delivered a number of clutch throws from the pocket — the risk of bringing extra rushers — and benefitted from a numerical advantage in those spots against an already depleted Tampa secondary.
Though the Bucs still won't be 100 percent on the backend in Week 2 — strong safety Jordan Whitehead will return while Sean Murphy-Bunting was placed on I.R. — the Falcons' cast of pass catchers are considerably less well equipped to exploit an undermanned secondary than Dallas's stacked receiver corps. Plus, Atlanta has its own issues.
For the Falcons, getting right might not be so simple. Famously, Matt Ryan and then-Falcons OC Kyle Shanahan didn't immediately mesh, with Ryan struggling to adapt to Shanahan's play-action heavy scheme after a lifetime of operation as a dropback passer. Atlanta finished 22nd in offensive DVOA in the pair's first season together in 2015, but then it all clicked in 2016 as Ryan won MVP leading the No. 1 offense in the league.
A 2022 MVP campaign may not be in Ryan's future, but history may be repeating itself in Atlanta in 2021. After dropping down to below 25 percent in play-action rate in recent years, Smith has brought a play-action heavy passing attack back to Ryan's plate as that rate should be expected to hover above 30 percent in 2021. The Week 1 results were ugly, with the veteran passer averaging fewer than five yards per attempt, and history tells us it's unlikely to be a quick fix — even if Ryan still has several more years of quality play ahead of him.
The Falcons' defense is horrifically talent-poor outside of Grady Jarrett and Deion Jones, and their offense is likely still weeks, if not months, away from clicking. Trust the champs to cover the lofty spread.
Under 52 (-110)
If Week 1 taught us anything in relation to the Bucs' offense, it's that they are going to be even more lethal this year. After finishing third in offensive DVOA a year ago, an uptick was expected if only because of the normal preseason they were able to enjoy and the continued meshing of Brady's preferences and the Air Coryell principles followed by Arians and OC Byron Leftwich.
Those expectations grew even higher after a Week 1 which saw arguably the two greatest pass catchers of the last decade, Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown, play at their best. Adding two Hall of Famers, even slightly below their former peaks, raises the ceiling even higher for an offense that boasts one of the league's cleanest technicians in Chris Godwin and a high-level red zone threat in Mike Evans.
Though Tampa Bay could finish as the league's best offense this season, it still isn't enough for us to take the Over on this total of 52. That's because, in order to get there, it would need help from the Falcons' offense — the same unit that was far and away the worst offense in Week 1.
Not only did the Falcons muster just a pair of scoring drives, both of which ended with field goals, but they didn't advance the ball beyond the 50-yard line in any of their subsequent nine drives. Ryan appeared uncomfortable and immobile, and the running game was non-existent — an extremely worrying sign for a scheme that is supposed to shift the math in the offense's favor up front and predicate their passing game on play-action.
Kyle Pitts and Calvin Ridley are supreme talents, and either one could bust off an explosive play in any game. However, the possibility of one big play is nowhere near enough to back an offense that is lost. The Bucs will do their job but it takes two to top this total.
Chris Godwin Over 67.5 receiving yards (-115)
When Tom Brady left the only NFL home he had ever known last spring and signed with the Bucs, it was rightfully seen as a huge coup for Tampa's organization as a whole. No one was expected to benefit more, however, than Chris Godwin. Fresh off a breakout 86-catch season, Godwin's combination of route running prowess, ball-winning ability, and agility out of the slot figured to mesh perfectly with a quarterback who had previously fostered telepathic connections with his favorite wideouts.
Godwin and Brady's first season together didn't go as planned, statistically speaking, as a finger injury limited Godwin's ability and held him to 65 catches and nearly three yards fewer per catch than 2019. Fully healthy and playing on the franchise tag, 2021 promised better things for Godwin and in Week 1, that promise was delivered on.
Godwin paced Tampa wideouts in catches against the Cowboys, hauling in nine passes for 105 yards, and found the endzone once. He was targeted 13 times — five more than the next closest Bucs pass catcher — and played all but one snap, staying on the field when Tampa went with heavy sets.
Godwin can build upon that promising start against a Falcons secondary that was lost in Week 1 and surrendered five catches, 133 yards, and two TDs to Godwin in Week 17 last year.
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