Nov 162013

Atlanta Falcons (2-7) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8)

I had the Falcons winning 8 games before the season, but I never could have imagined a team with a quarterback like Matt Ryan could ever win 4 or fewer games. However, they have a very realistic chance of that happening right now, at 2-7. That’s just what happens when you have nothing functional around your quarterback. Matt Ryan is actually doing a very good job this season, as the Falcons are moving the chains at a 75% rate, above average, despite problems on the offensive line and injuries to his weapons. However, there’s nothing he can do about the defense, which is allowing opponents to move the chains at a league leading 82% rate. As a result, they are 27th in rate of moving the chains differential.

That’s actually significantly worse than Tampa Bay, who is better than their record. Tampa Bay is 26th, but they are moving the chains at a 71% rate, as opposed to 75% for their opponents. They’ve been competitive in most of their games and their point differential of -63 is actually better than Atlanta’s point differential of -65. They have some very good players, including Gerald McCoy and Darrelle Revis, the latter of whom is unfairly being blamed for the Buccaneers’ record, despite being thrown on less frequently than any other cornerback in the NFL. In terms of DVOA, they are actually 20th, while the Falcons are 22nd. The Falcons have no business being favored on the road here.

The Falcons are also in a bad spot as favorites before a Thursday Night Game. They play the Saints next week on Thursday Night Football and that could be a huge distraction for them. They could have a very hard time getting up for the Buccaneers when they host the Saints in 4 days. Favorites are 27-50 ATS before Thursday Night Football since 2008. The Falcons are in a good spot coming off of back-to-back losses of 21+. Teams are 38-20 ATS in that spot since 2002 as teams tend to be undervalued, overlooked, and embarrassed in that situation.

However, I think it’s a different dynamic with the Falcons being favorites. They are the first team to be road favorites off of back-to-back losses by 21 or more since 1999 and only 5 have been road favorites in that situation since 1989, going 1-4 ATS. It’s obviously not a huge sample size or anything, but it makes sense that the Falcons might not be as undervalued and overlooked here as road favorites as they otherwise would be. The Buccaneers are in a bad spot coming off of a close home win as underdogs. Teams are 34-58 ATS since 2002 off of a home win by 1-3 points as home underdogs. It’s not a huge play on the Buccaneers for that reason, but we’re getting value with them and they should win this game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 Atlanta Falcons 23 Upset Pick +115

Pick against spread: Tampa Bay +1.5

Confidence: Low

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