Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) at Atlanta Falcons (1-4)
These two teams are pretty similar, as they have good offenses, but horrendous defenses. The Falcons started the season as a balanced team, but they have had terrible injury luck on defense, with defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, linebacker Deion Jones, and safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen out with injuries. As a result, a team that looked like a possible contender coming into the season has fallen to 1-4 and looks unlikely to improve on defense any time soon.
On the other side, the Buccaneers problem on defense isn’t really injuries; they just have a weak defense. They rank dead last in first down rate allowed at 45.88%, one spot ahead of the Falcons at 45.02%. Fortunately, their offense has been strong to compensate somewhat, ranking 7th in first down rate at 40.56%, a few spots ahead of the Falcons, who rank 10th at 39.25% and continue to be without running back Devonta Freeman with injury.
With Jameis Winston taking his starting job back from Ryan Fitzpatrick, after briefly being benched upon his return from suspension, the Buccaneers’ offense could conceivably improve going forward. Winston played well when healthy last season and has arguably the most talented receiving corps in the NFL, especially with tight end OJ Howard looking likely to return from injury this week. I have the Falcons a couple spots higher in my rankings, so I’m taking them as mere 3 point home favorites, but this game is close to a toss up and could easily push. At 3.5, I’d take the Buccaneers.
Atlanta Falcons 34 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31
Pick against the spread: Atlanta -3