The Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have played their best when it mattered the least. The Bucs lost 7 of their first 10 games going 2-8 ATS but once they were eliminated from the playoff hunt immediately went on a four game winning streak. They’ve also covered 4 of their last 5 games going 4-0-1 against the spread. Not much was expected out of the Tampa Bay team in Bruce Arians’ first year as head coach so their late season run has been a pleasant surprise. There’s likely major personnel changes coming in the off season so it might not mean much in terms of the future but winning is definitely better than losing.
The Atlanta Falcons’ season has been even more bizarre than the Bucs’. They were devastated by injuries in 2018 finishing 7-9. The expectation was that a healthy Falcons team could be a serious contender in 2019. After all, they were just a couple years removed from taking the New England Patriots to overtime in Super Bowl LI. That didn’t happen. Instead, the team absolutely flatlined out of the game winning only 1 of their first 8 games while going 1-6-1 against the spread. As the losses mounted it started to look like Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn wouldn’t make it through the season.
There was little to suggest that an unmotivated Falcons team would in any way rally to save Quinn’s job. But that’s exactly what has happened. Atlanta has played their best football of the year in the second half going 5-2 SU/ATS with a couple of huge upset wins. They dominated the Saints at New Orleans on November 10, winning 26-9 as +14 point road underdogs. On December 15, they beat the San Francisco 49ers on the road winning 29-22 as +10 underdogs. If Atlanta can win here they’ll finish 7-9 which isn’t great but there’s some validation to finishing with an identical record as they had in 2018 after the horrific start to the year.
Tampa Bay opened as a -2.5 home favorite but money quickly came for the Falcons. Hard to argue with that as the Bucs have been a miserable home favorite over the years and are on a run of 8-20-1 ATS in that role. They’ve failed to cover in every home game this year going either 0-5-1 ATS or 0-6 ATS (depending on the price you got in their 38-35 home win over Indianapolis on 12/8/19). The game is now Bucs -1 with a growing number of sportsbooks showing the game at ‘PK’.
Both teams can put points on the board but as far as their ‘second half surges’ go the Falcons seem more legit. Jameis Winston is racking up impressive passing yardage numbers (4,908 yards which is #1 in the NFL) but he’s also thrown a league high 28 interceptions–that’s 10 more than the two QB’s tied for second place (Baker Mayfield and Phillip Rivers). On the other side of the field, the heady Matt Ryan should have a big day carving up Tampa Bay’s #29 ranked secondary and #30 ranked scoring defense. Falcons win in a game that goes ‘Over’ the total. Bucs ‘Over’ in 11 of 15 games this year including 9 of 11 against NFC rivals. 4 of the last 5 head to head have also gone ‘Over’.