Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-9 SU, 3-7 ATS) vs. Atlanta Falcons (5-5 SU, 7-3 ATS), 1:00 p.m. EST, NFL Week 12, Sunday, November 29, 2009, Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga. TV: FOX
by Ryno of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Buccaneers +11.5/Falcons -11.5
Over/Under: 46

After two straight losses, the Atlanta Falcons are now almost in a must-win situation in order to make the playoffs. Needing a win, it’s the perfect time to be facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Falcons have been very good at home this season, but very bad on the road. After starting the season 4-1, they lost at Dallas and at New Orleans. Then, after coming home and defeating the Redskins, the Falcons lost two more road games to the Panthers and Giants. The next three games for the Falcons will be at home, where they 4-0 this season. On the road, they are 1-5.

In the loss to the Panthers, Falcons running back Michael Turner left the game with an ankle injury. He missed the last game against the Giants. In the 34-31 overtime loss to the Giants, Jason Snelling filled in at running back with 76 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Matt Ryan was 26-for-46 for 268 yards and two touchdowns. But the Falcons defense allowed Eli Manning to throw for 384 yards and three touchdowns. In the loss to the Panthers, the Falcons ran for 176 yards but also allowed 185 rushing yards. Ryan threw two costly interceptions and the Falcons weren’t able to force any turnovers.

For the season, Ryan has 2,276 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Turner has 831 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, but it is unclear whether or not he will be able to play against the Buccaneers. If he can’t go, Snelling will fill in once again. Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez are the top receiving threats for the Falcons. White has 51 receptions for 713 yards and six touchdowns. Gonzalez has 52 receptions for 583 yards and five touchdowns.

The Buccaneers have been through three quarterbacks this season. After going into their bye week with an 0-7 record, Raheem Morris opted to switch to rookie quarterback Josh Freeman. In his first start, he led the Bucs to their first win of the season, 38-28 over the Packers. The next week, they lost on a last second field goal to the Dolphins, 25-23. Last week, the Saints blew out the Bucs, 38-7.

The Bucs definitely have been playing much better football since Freeman took over as quarterback. The rookie has thrown for 543 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions. Cadillac Williams leads the team in rushing with 450 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Kellen Winslow is the team’s go to guy and leading receiver with 47 receptions for 483 yards and five touchdowns.

The Falcons did not do a good job against the pass in their loss to the Giants. The Bucs are a pass-heavy team, so Freeman could have a productive day on Sunday. If he can complete passes consistently and not turn the ball over, the Bucs could have a chance to pull off the upset. But the Falcons play much better at home. Even if Turner does not play, Snelling should be able to gain some yards on a weak Bucs defense and Ryan should be able to throw all over the field.

The Falcons are 4-0 ATS at home and 4-1 ATS as the favorites. The total has gone over in five of Atlanta’s last six games. The total has gone over in four of Tampa Bay’s last six games. The Bucs have allowed at least 24 points in all but one game this season, and they have scored 23 or less points in all but one game.

Ryno’s Pick: The Bucs have one of the weakest overall defenses in the NFL, and the Falcons have one of the best offenses. If the Falcons can establish the run with or without Turner on the field, Ryan should have a field day. But interceptions have been the problem for Ryan, who has 12 of them this season. If he doesn’t turn the ball over, the Falcons should be able to score on most of their possessions. The key will be how well the Falcons defend the pass. They did a poor job against the Giants, and the Bucs will throw the ball a lot, so the Falcons defense must step up and stop this rather one-dimensional offense that the Bucs have. No matter what, there will be a lot of points scored in this game. Take the over of 46.