Sportsbooks are saying this one is going to come down to the wire, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened as slight 1.5-point favorites over the Atlanta Falcons in their Week 17 matchup at Raymond James Stadium.
Kickoff is set for 1:00pm EST on December 30th.
Atlanta’s offense is largely dependent upon Matt Ryan’s throwing arm. Their fifth-ranked passing attack deserves a large portion of the credit for the 25.3 points per game they post (11th).
But Ryan would be the first to praise his preferred pass-catcher, Julio Jones, for their success.
The Falcons are lucky Ryan is performing at a Pro Bowl level, since their running game has been rather ineffective, churning out just 4.6 yards per tote (13th). Their QB, on the other hand, has thrown for 4,546 yards and 33 touchdowns (5th).
Teams have struggled to slow Ryan and Jones (1,539 receiving yards and seven touchdowns) this season, often resulting in extra attention being assigned towards trying to stop them, leaving themselves vulnerable elsewhere.
But after a bit of a quiet game against the Panthers last week, where they only hooked up for 28 yards and one touchdown, you can bet Ryan will be looking Jones’s way early on Sunday.
Atlanta is going to need every bit of offense they can muster on Sunday, as their defense has been deplorable this season. The Falcons are letting teams score 26.1 points per game, which ranks 26th in the NFL.
It’s no surprise teams are having an easy time scoring on them, as they cannot stop the run or pass, ranking 27th and 25th, respectively.
The offense Atlanta will see this week is best characterized as good, but not great. Tampa Bay is scoring 24.3 points per game (13th), largely thanks to Jameis Winston and their first-ranked passing attack.
The QB has thrown for 2,647 yards with a 15:13 TD to INT ratio (87.0 passer rating).
Mike Evans has served as Winston’s go-to target, pulling in 80 passes for 1,418 yards and six TDs. But this offense won’t reach that elite level until they get more from their 29th-ranked ground game.
Facing a Falcons defense this week that gives up 127.1 yards per game on the ground (27th), it’s a great opportunity to get Peyton Barber (805 rushing yards this season) going.
The Buccaneers defense doesn’t offer much help. They’re allowing a shameful 28.7 points per game, the third-most in the league. Teams are able to score with such ease because they can attack in whichever way they please.
Tampa Bay gives up 124.9 rushing yards per game (25th) and 251.4 through the air (23rd). It appears the biggest threat to Matt Ryan’s numbers this week is Tevin Coleman having too big of a game, and vice versa.
Atlanta defeated the Buccaneers, 34-29, the last time these two teams met, which was October 14th, 2018. The Falcons were 3.0-point favorites in that game.