All-conquering Falcons to prove too strong for Bucs
NFL week 9
Sky Sports 1, 12.30am
Atlanta are 3-10 to win the NFC South this season and can take another step towards the divisional title by winning at Tampa Bay.
The Falcons have a score to settle as their 31-24 opening-day home defeat to the Buccaneers stands out as an outlying result on the records of both teams.
Atlanta have either won or narrowly lost contests they had chances to win in every other game – they lost by two points in Seattle and in overtime to San Diego in a match they had twice led by more than ten points.
Since Week One the Buccaneers have beaten only the two weakest teams they have faced – a poor San Francisco side and a struggling Carolina who were fielding their reserve quarterback.
They were soundly defeated when they came up against top-flight teams in Arizona and Denver and also lost to Los Angeles and Oakland.
The Falcons offence has not been slowed by anyone they have met this season with quarterback Matt Ryan leading the league in passing yards, star receiver Julio Jones impossible to defend and running back Devonta Freeman making a big impression. This talented unit lead the league with 32.8 points per game.
That has to be a worry for the home defence, who gave up 513 passing yards to Raiders QB Derek Carr on Sunday.
The Falcons defence also cannot be trusted but Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston faces a hard task to keep pace with the visitors.
The Tampa Bay running game has been hit by injuries all season and with Doug Martin and Jacquizz Rodgers both looking set to miss the game Antone Smith, who joined the club two weeks ago and had only one carry in 2015, looks likely to start.
Some punters shy away from backing dome-based teams on grass pitches but the Falcons have impressed on the road this season, winning at Denver and Oakland, and they gave a fine account of themselves in the hostile atmosphere at Seattle.
The Bucs have yet to win at home this season and they will have much better chances to open their account than a clash against one of the strongest offences in the league. Atlanta look worth backing on the handicap.
1pt 10-11 general