NFL-Week 15-Monday night football-Falcons at Buccaneers game preview

The Falcons (8-5 SU, 6-7 ATS) rebounded from a five-point home loss to the Vikings by edging the rival Saints, 20-17 as 2 ½-point home favorites. Atlanta trailed heading into the fourth quarter, 17-10, but the Falcons tied it with ten minutes remaining when Matt Ryan hit Mohamed Sanu for an eight-yard touchdown. The Falcons ultimately took the lead on a 52-yard field goal by Matt Bryant with under four minutes remaining to keep Atlanta in the mix for the NFC South title.

Ryan overcame a three-interception night as he hooked up with wide receiver Julio Jones five times for 98 yards, while Sanu hauled in 83 yards. Devonta Freeman scored Atlanta’s first touchdown and rushed for 91 yards, his second-highest rushing total of the season. The Falcons have won four of their past five games, while picking up their second divisional victory of the season after knocking off Tampa Bay in Week 12.

The expectations were high in Tampa this season following a near-playoff miss in 2016. However, the Buccaneers (4-9 SU, 3-9-1 ATS) have slumped to a last place finish in the NFC South after dropping their third consecutive game last Sunday against Detroit. The Lions kicked a late field goal to edge the Bucs, 24-21 to suffer their third home loss of the season.

In six of the past seven games, the Bucs have been held to 21 points or fewer, while falling to 2-8 in the past 10 contests since a 2-1 start. Tampa Bay trailed 21-7 in the fourth quarter, but Jameis Winston led the Bucs on a pair of scoring drives with touchdown passes to rookie tight end O.J. Howard and tackle-eligible Leonard Wester. However, the Bucs suffered only their second home loss to an NFC opponent in their last eight tries.

Atlanta is playing away from Mercedes Benz Stadium for the first time in nearly a month following its 2-1 homestand. The Falcons have fared well away from their new home by posting a 4-2 road record, including a victory at Seattle back in Week 11. All four away victories have come by six points or less, as Atlanta has failed to cover in its two opportunities as 6 ½-point favorites in wins over the Bears and Jets.

Last season, the Buccaneers were excellent against NFC South foes by compiling a 4-2 record. Things have gone south this season for Dirk Koetter’s club within the division as Tampa Bay owns an 0-3 SU/ATS mark with a loss to each of its three NFC South rivals. In 2016, the Bucs picked up a pair of late season home wins over the Saints and Panthers, while scoring 17 points or fewer in each victory.

What a difference a year makes as the Falcons registered the OVER in 16 of 20 games last season. Atlanta has hit the OVER in only five of 13 contests in 2017, while coming off consecutive UNDERS against Minnesota and New Orleans. In games with totals below 50, the Falcons are 6-3 to the UNDER, including a 2-2 mark in such instances on the road.

Tampa Bay had its three-game OVER streak snapped in last Sunday’s UNDER against Detroit, as the Bucs are currently 5-1 to the UNDER at Raymond James Stadium. Dating back to last November, the Bucs are on an 8-1 UNDER run at home, while scoring 17 points or less six times in this span.

The Buccaneers made their first visit to Mercedes Benz Stadium in Week 12 as Tampa Bay allowed Atlanta to score 17 second quarter points in a 34-20 defeat. The Falcons picked up the cover as 10-point favorites thanks to a late Tevin Coleman touchdown run as Atlanta racked up 516 yards of offense. Ryan put together one of his best games of the season with 317 yards passing, while Jones torched the Bucs’ defense for 253 yards and two touchdowns receiving.

Winston missed the first matchup with a shoulder injury, but the Bucs have put together a 3-1 SU/ATS record when the Heisman Trophy winner has started against Atlanta in his brief career. In last season’s two meetings with the Falcons, Winston tossed seven touchdown passes and one interception, but the Bucs lost at home to Atlanta, 43-28 as 4 ½-point underdogs. Each of the past three matchups have sailed OVER the total, while the Bucs and Falcons have split the previous four games at Raymond James Stadium.

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