Buccaneers Flaws Make Falcons -7 the Week 3 NFL Pick

Jason Lake

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 2:14 PM GMT

Bettors are running away from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after they started the 2014 season with a pair of upset losses at home. Is there any hope for the Bucs to beat the Week 3 NFL lines at Georgia?

Jason Lake’s Record after Week 1: 1-4 ATS, 0-1 Totals

Profit: minus-6.6 units

After a wild and woolly start to the NFL regular season, we’ve got four teams staring into the abyss at 0-2 SU and ATS. But only one of those teams managed to lose its first two games at home. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They dropped their season opener 20-14 to Derek Anderson and the Carolina Panthers (+5.5), and followed up with a 19-17 stinker against Austin Davis and the St. Louis Rams (+4).

Barring an unforeseen medical emergency, the Buccaneers won’t be facing a second-string quarterback in Week 3. They’ll be facing Matt Ryan (90.6 career passer rating) and the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday Night Football. Our opening odds report for this matchup (8:25 p.m. ET, CBS) had Atlanta laying 5.5 points with a strong early push to –6. As we go to press, we can confirm bettors were on the Falcons at a 2:1 ratio, enough to drive the NFL lines to Atlanta –6.5 at most locations.

 

Simple Syrup
Two games isn’t much of a sample size. But it’s not nothing, and the results of the first two weeks suggest we should be running away from the Bucs as quickly as possible. Pro Football Reference has pegged Tampa Bay at minus-15.4 on its Simple Rating System; only four teams in the NFC are rated worse, and one of them is the Rams at minus-15.8. Not good. The Falcons are at minus-0.3 SRS after splitting their first two games SU and ATS. If both teams played at that level in Week 3, you’d expect Atlanta to win by over 15 points on neutral ground – just subtract the two SRS figures, and presto.

This isn’t how things were supposed to play out in Tampa. Football Outsiders had the Bucs projected to finish No. 14 overall in efficiency, five spots ahead of the Falcons. But little has gone right for Lovie Smith in his Tampa Bay debut. What was a promising defense has been pretty much decimated after two violent weeks of football. In addition to the major defensive line issues we’ve already discussed, LB Mason Foster had to leave the Rams game with a shoulder injury and did not return. Foster was uncertain Monday whether he’d be ready for Week 3.

 

Weak Sauce
On the other side of the football, the Falcons are awaiting word on the status of rookie OT Jake Matthews, who missed Game 2 with a high ankle sprain. If he can play left tackle on Thursday, that would allow Gabe Carimi to switch back to right tackle in place of Lamar Holmes, who had his toast burned on both sides in Sunday’s 24-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals (–5.5 at home).

As difficult as things were on Ryan and the Falcons offense in Week 2, that pales in comparison to what’s going on with Tampa Bay. The offense under Smith (who played linebacker in college at Tulsa) has been every bit as conservative as the offenses his Chicago Bears trotted out from 2004 to 2012. Not coincidentally, Smith’s hand-picked QB, Josh McCown, has seen his performance level drop back to where it was when he was backing up Jay Cutler in Chicago. The Bears could get away with vanilla offense because they had great defense and special teams. Tampa Bay doesn’t have either of those things anymore.

 

The Five Stars

Injuries/Suspensions/Travel/Rest: ATL

Defense/Special Teams: EVEN

Coaching: TB

Market Bias: EVEN

Betting Line Value: ATL

 

Expert NFL Betting Verdict: 1-star pick on ATL

Free NFL Pick: Put 1.4 units on the Falcons –7 (+110) at 5Dimes

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