One week after their promising season opener, the Atlanta Falcons came up flatter than that can of 7-Up you left sitting on the porch overnight. But the Falcons are already big favorites on the Week 3 NFL odds board.
Jason’s record after Week 1: 1-4 ATS, 0-1 Totals
Profit: minus-6.6 units
There’s a reason why a 53-percent success rate is gold when you’re betting on the NFL. Football is a tough sport with an awkwardly shaped ball that doesn’t always go where it’s intended. Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan knows this; he threw three interceptions in Sunday’s 24-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals (–5.5 at home). This was one week after Ryan threw three touchdown passes in a 37-34 victory over the New Orleans Saints (–3 away).
Which version of Ryan will we see in Week 3 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Probably something closer to the one that went to the Pro Bowl twice. The Falcons have opened as 5.5-point home faves on the latest NFL lines at press time, and while we’re still waiting for enough data to produce a consensus report, Atlanta has already moved to –6 at several of the online sportsbooks on our NFL odds board.
Before we accuse Ryan of pulling a Jekyll-and-Hyde act, let’s remind ourselves of the other major inconsistency between Week 1 and Week 2: his opponents. The Bengals defense is one of the best in the league, ranking fifth overall in DVOA last year (No. 4 pass, No. 13 rush). Cincinnati unleashed the blitz on Ryan and kept him on his heels all day. The Saints defense, which had improved from No. 32 to No. 10 last year under co-ordinator Rob Ryan, seems destined to give back some of those gains in 2014.
But there’s another inconsistency that’s completely on the Falcons, and it affects Matt Ryan directly. Rookie LT Jake Matthews hurt his left ankle during the Saints game and wasn’t able to recover in time to face the Bengals. Former Outland Trophy winner Gabe Carimi got the start instead. Meanwhile, Lamar Holmes, who started at right tackle, had a particularly bad game for the Falcons. Holmes is only in the starting lineup because Matthews was filling in on the left side for Sam Baker, who’s out for the year with a torn patellar tendon.
As awful as the Buccaneers were last year (4-12 SU, 6-10 ATS), they had the No. 8-ranked defense in the league under hard-nosed head coach Greg Schiano. Better things are expected under Schiano’s replacement, Lovie Smith, who led the defensively stout Chicago Bears to Super Bowl XLI. But the new-look Bucs don’t have CB Darrelle Revis anymore. They’ve also lost both LE Adrian Clayborn (biceps) and RE Michael Johnson (ankle) for the season, and they might not have LT Gerald McCoy after he suffered a broken hand in Sunday’s 19-17 loss to the St. Louis Rams (+4 away).
Yes, Tampa Bay lost to the Rams on Sunday. That’s the Rams, with Austin Davis making his first NFL start at QB and connecting on 22 of 29 passes for 235 yards. Having said that, Tampa Bay did have a shot at kicking a winning field goal, only to have their drive end when rookie WR Mike Evans was shaken up and helped off the field, forcing officials to run the last eight seconds off the clock. The Bucs still would have lost ATS, but a straight-up win would have given them some life going into Week 3.
As it stands, Tampa Bay has to go to the Georgia Dome with a patchwork defensive line that isn’t likely to cause Ryan the same headaches he dealt with in Cincinnati. Don’t be surprised if the NFL odds continue to move in this matchup; we’ll have picks on the ATS and the total for you later in the week.