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Wednesday, 24 October, 2018

Buccaneers may not be able to keep Atlanta at bay

Falcons can enjoy their trip to Florida

Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston has had a difficult season
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Sky Sports Mix, 1.30am Monday night

While other NFL teams are left contemplating all sorts of scenarios that will dictate their chances of making the post-season, the situation is crystal clear for Atlanta.

The Falcons, who surrendered a 28-3 lead against New England in last season's Super Bowl, were a game behind Carolina and New Orleans in the NFC South before Week 15 swung into action.

Victories in their three remaining games will give Atlanta the divisional title as they still have the Panthers and Saints to play in the final two weeks of the campaign, but that will count for little if they slip up against the fourth team in the group, Tampa Bay.

The Bucs can affect the playoff picture only as saboteurs, having won just four matches this season, all of which have been against teams who entered the weekend with losing records - Miami, Chicago and the two teams from New York.

Hopes were high that Tampa Bay could eclipse what was an encouraging 7-9 campaign last year, but there has been little progress.

Perhaps the fact a hurricane prevented them from playing in Week One against Miami knocked them off their stride.

It has been a gruelling campaign without a mid-season bye week and quarterback Jameis Winston looks to have gone backwards. He has caused nine turnovers in his last four matches.

There are concerns in defence as well because no team forced fewer sacks in their opening 13 games than Tampa's total of 17 and five of those were chalked up by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who has been ruled out of the clash with Atlanta through injury.

They could struggle to keep the Falcons offence at bay and while Atlanta have been unable to scale the heights of last year when they were the league's highest scorers - they have scored 30 points in just two of their last ten matches - they could enjoy a fruitful trip to Florida.

Recommendation
Over 26.5 Atlanta points
2pts 5-6 BoyleSports


The lowdown
Venue Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
Surface Grass
Weather Cloudy, 21C
Vegas handicap Atlanta -6.5
Vegas points line 49

Team news
Atlanta
Guard Andy Levitre is out with an arm injury and running back Tevin Coleman missed the game due to concussion.

Tampa Bay

Linebacker Lavonte David (hamstring), defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (arm) and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (hamstring) will all be missing.

Key stat
Eight of Tampa Bay's last nine home matches have gone under the points line.


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Hopes were high that Tampa Bay could eclipse what was an encouraging 7-9 campaign last year, but there has been little progress.
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