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Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons

Betting Line: Falcons -9 o/u 44.5


John J. Raspanti

The surprising Bucs (5-2) visit Atlanta (5-2) in a showdown for supremacy in the NFC South Division. The Buccaneers came from behind to edge the Arizona Cardinals 38-35 last week. Quarterback Josh Freeman has been solid this year completing 60 percent of his passes and tossing eight touchdowns. Freeman can also run the ball gaining 176 yards. Running back LeGarrette Blount has rushed for 222 yards and is averaging five yards a carry. Freeman's favorite receiver has been Mike Williams who has caught thirty balls and scored four touchdowns.

Kellen Winslow has been reliable with 30 catches for 306 yards. The Buccaneer defense has been a bit puzzling. They're ranked 23rd in the league and like to play a bend and don't break defense. The Cardinals shredded them on the ground and through the air to the tune of 396 yards last week. However, when they needed it, their defense came up big. Aqib Talib had two of Tampa's four interceptions, returning one 45 yards for a touchdown and saving the game with his other pick.

The Atlanta Falcons come off their bye week feeling healthy and ready to go. Quarterback Matt Ryan has been playing very well of late completing 62 percent of his passes. Ryan has tossed 12 touchdown passes and only been intercepted five times. His backfield mate Michael Turner is a bull having gained 587 yards this season. Wide receiver Roddy White has caught 54 passes and scored five times. Veteran tight end Tony Gonzales has chipped in with 29 catches.  

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What the Falcons don't have is a legitimate deep threat. Michael Jenkins leads the team with an average of 15 yards per catch. The Falcons defense is ranked 21st in the league giving up an average of 260 yards through the air. Their secondary has routinely allowed some big passing plays this season. Linebacker Curtis Lofton leads the team with fifty-eight tackles. Lofton has been superb all season. The Falcons sack master is John Abraham who been recorded six so far this season.

The edge has to go to the Falcons. They're playing at home, they're coming off a bye week, and Matt Ryan is due for a huge game. They should be able to move the ball down the field against the Buccaneers suspect defense. The Bucs won't go down without a fight though. Second year quarterback Freeman has engineered four fourth quarter comebacks this year.

We have the Falcons winning this one by a touchdown. With the current line if Atlanta -9, that would mean a small lean towards the Bucs. However, if you look at the Bucs dance card, you'll see wins against teams like Arizona, Carolina and the Rams. The two "elite" teams they faced, the Steelers and Saints, both beat Tampa Bay handily. The Flacons played both the Saints and Steelers tough, beating the Saints straight up.

In the NFL, if you concentrate on picking straight up winners, pointspread success will follow. With that in mind, we see the Falcons winning this one, which, in more instances than not, will get you the cover. But we are simply not interested in laying anything more than a touchdown in any NFL game. It seems as though the majority if NFL games these days are decided in the final 5 minutes. Having to cover a number of -9 or more is a recipe for disaster. We pass!


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