FALCONS (5-3) AT BUCS (3-4)
TV: NFL; Radio: WCBS (880)
Falcons by 4; O/U: 51
Thursday Night Football’s slogan is “Anything can happen.” That can be said for every NFL game, no matter the day. Anything can happen, sure, but when it’s a division battle and the better team gets a chance to avenge an earlier loss, what tends to happen is that the superior team gets payback.
That will be the case as Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Atlanta’s high-powered offense travel to Tampa Bay to avenge a 31-24 Week 1 loss to the Bucs. As we saw last week, it’s hard to beat a division rival twice in one season: New England blitzed Buffalo and Denver also got even with San Diego. These “Round 2” matchups are always hard to pick because the tendency is to take the team that lost the first time. That doesn’t always work out, but it will in this matchup for multiple reasons.
The Bucs are 0-3 at home, and the only thing that’s been able to stop opposing offenses has been lightning delays. The Bucs have allowed 37, 27 and 30 points in those games, and Case Keenum and the Rams were the team that got the 37. Imagine what Ryan will be able to do.
The Falcons will have their way with the Bucs defense, and the biggest reason why is because of what happened on Sunday. The Bucs played practically five quarters, losing to the Raiders in overtime on a touchdown pass with less than two minutes left. Tampa Bay’s defense was on the field for a whopping 85 plays. You read that right: 85 plays! It’s asking a lot for the Bucs’ 27th-ranked defense (390 yards and 27 points per game) to stop the NFL’s No. 1 offense (425.2 yards, 32.8 points, 6.8 yards per play) to begin with. Add in the fatigue factor, and it feels impossible.
Thursday night games are tough to pick, because on a short week anything can happen. However, this is the easiest pick of the Thursday night slate thus far: Bet the Falcons with confidence.
The pick: Falcons
TOM ROCK: FALCONS
KIMBERLEY A. MARTIN: FALCONS
BOB GLAUBER: FALCONS