Sunday, December 20, 2020, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia, 1 p.m. ET
Buccaneers at Falcons Betting Preview: Buccaneers (-5.5/-114), Falcons (+5.5/-106)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s safe to say that no team needed a bye week more than Tampa Bay two weeks ago. The Buccaneers had the rare, unwanted distinction of playing 12 straight weeks before getting their bye. They and NFC South-rival Carolina joined the 2016 Titans and Browns in getting the latest bye weeks in league history.
The rest couldn’t have hurt Tampa Bay last week in a 26-14 win over Minnesota. The Buccaneers played a clean game with no turnovers and only five penalties, taking advantage of a bevy of missed chances and mistakes from the Vikings.
But Tampa Bay may be shorthanded this week if Ronald Jones II, the fourth-leading rusher in the NFL with 900 yards, is sidelined after going on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday. Leonard Fournette is likely to start if Jones, who also has a fractured left pinkie, can’t go, and Tom Brady may have to carry a bigger load.
The offseason surprise in Atlanta would be if big changes didn’t occur. A third straight losing season, coupled with the firing of coach Dan Quinn after an 0-5 start, means the status quo isn’t going to cut it for owner Arthur Blank or the fans.
All the Falcons can do now is impact someone’s postseason. They get two cracks at Tampa Bay in the season’s final weeks, sandwiched around a trip to 12-1 Kansas City. If misery loves company, as the old cliché goes, Atlanta has a chance to take a division rival with it.
For the Falcons to haunt the Buccaneers’ offseason, they have to protect quarterback Matt Ryan. He’s been sacked 33 times and is facing a team that has bagged 40 sacks. If Atlanta can keep Ryan upright, he could enjoy a big game, particularly if wide receiver Julio Jones (hamstring) can return from injury.
Buccaneers at Falcons Betting Pick for Week 15
Tampa Bay needs to be ready to play. The worst thing it can do against a 4-9 team three weeks away from the offseason is to stumble around, let them take an early lead and allow them to believe they can pull the upset.
The Buccaneers’ ability to pressure Ryan will be critical, because if they don’t, Jones and Calvin Ridley are capable of lighting up a suspect secondary. In the end, Brady moves a step closer to a playoff berth with his new team.
Buccaneers at Falcons Betting Pick:
Buccaneers 30, Falcons 24.
Buccaneers at Falcons Best Bet for Week 15
Go to the tool kit, take out the hammer and use it on the over without hesitation. Recent trends point in the direction of a high-scoring game. In seven of Atlanta’s last eight games against Tampa Bay, the over has been the correct play. So don’t be stunned when Tom Brady finds Rob Gronkowski a time or two in the end zone, and bet on Ryan teaming up with Jones and Ridley for a couple of scores.
Buccaneers at Falcons Best Bet: OVER 50 total points (-110)