It’s time for another intriguing NFC South rivalry matchup, as the Atlanta Falcons head down to Southwest Florida to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday (10/22/23). Get Falcons vs. Buccaneers odds, picks and predictions below as our best bet is Buccaneers -2.5.
Falcons vs Buccaneers Prediction
With three teams in the NFC South essentially deadlocked, every game between these rivals is absolutely pivotal. The New Orleans Saints were viewed as division favorites by many coming into the season, but almost two months in, the Bucs hold a narrow lead over the rest, while the Falcons are right there as well with a 3-3 record. These teams have all performed admirably outside of the South, as the Saints own a huge win over the Patriots, the Bucs took down the Vikings, and the Falcons outlasted the upstart Texans and the Packers, so with things so even outside of divisional play, this is a game we could look back on as a true defining moment in this absolutely packed race
The Buccaneers were tabbed as a Caleb Williams contender before the season, but with a resurgent Baker Mayfield under center, they’ve been competitive week in and week out. As admirable as Mayfield’s thousandth career renaissance has been, the real strength for this Tampa team is their defense, which has rebounded from a rough statistical start to the season and is re-establishing itself as one of the league’s best, especially against the run.
Atlanta’s defense has also been a positive this year, and one of the most improved units in the league on either side of the football. Unfortunately, Desmond Ridder’s development has not progressed remotely as expected by Arthur Smith and his staff, and the quarterback’s complete ineptitude has held this team back tremendously; with the new-look defense, they could be potential contenders with even a league-average starter. Just this week, Ridder threw three extremely costly interceptions in a loss to the Commanders, a must-win game for a team in the thick of a division race.
The Bucs offense has had its issues as well; as was the case last year, they have absolutely no semblance of a ground game, and unsurprisingly, it’s hurt the Mayfield-led offense as much as it hampered the unit when it was led by Tom Brady. The Falcons’ defense is one of the best in the league against the run- the very best, according to EPA- so this isn’t the game for a bounce back.
Mayfield is going to have to win this game with his arm, which I do think he’s capable of, but it won’t be pretty or prolific. The route to winning this one at home for the Bucs is for the Tampa defense to stifle Ridder and company enough that the Bucs only need to score around 20 points to get the job done. After the Falcons-Commanders game, and the Bucs’ win over the Saints, this seems like a very realistic outcome, and is the basis for our best bet of Tampa -2.5.
Falcons vs Buccaneers Prediction: Buccaneers -2.5 (-110)
Falcons vs Buccaneers Best Odds
ATL @ TB
Oct. 22, 12:00 PM
100% of staff picked TB to cover the spread
Odds updated October 22nd, 2023, at 3:03 pm
The Bucs are 2.5 point favorites, a key number, while they’re -145 on the moneyline compared to +120 for the Falcons. The total is set fairly low for this defensive battle, at around 38 depending on the sportsbook.
Falcons vs Buccaneers Key Injuries
Center Ryan Jensen is still out for the year for Tampa, while Baker Mayfield is dealing with a non-throwing hand injury. On the other side of things, the Falcons are very healthy at this stage of the season.
Falcons vs Buccaneers Key Matchups
In what should be a low-scoring game, a few big moments could be enough for either side to pull away, so let’s take a look at how each team might be able to find those explosive plays.
Buccaneers Passing Offense vs. Falcons Air Defense
The Falcons pass defense is seventh in success rate, but 24th in EPA and 29th in DVOA, meaning that opponents don’t connect on passes very often, but when they do, it can be a big play. That’s a bad combination against the Bucs, who will be happy to live and die by the long ball, as their passing offense EPA per play is 10th in the league despite the 20th best success rate in the air game.
Mayfield has always been an underrated deep ball passer, and this year he has made three big time throws on passes 20 or more yards downfield, and has yet to register a turnover worthy play on those throws. On all other throws, the ratio is one to five, so these are the exact types of plays the Bucs will want to attack. Of course, Mike Evans is a huge part of this success; he’s caught four of his nine deep targets, including two touchdowns. Chris Godwin is a major weapon as well, and he still has yet to really get going this year; if he kicks it into high gear this week, Atlanta could be in trouble.
Falcons Ground Attack vs. Buccaneers Run Defense
The Bucs started the year off with some really poor run defense performances, and the Falcons will be hoping for a reprise of those outings, given the state of the passing attack through Ridder. The run game isn’t grading too well either by advanced metrics, but Bijan Robinson and Allgeier form one of the league’s rusher duos, and the Atlanta o-line is ninth in PFF’s run blocking grade.
Tampa’s run defense has the same key players as it has throughout the team’s past few years of success. Antoine Winfield has been great coming up from his safety spot, while Vita Vea continues to be one of the most underrated players in the whole league as an interior d-lineman. Lavonte David has had a tougher start to the year but his track record that suggests that he’ll step it up before long.