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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 7: Buccaneers vs Falcons (updated)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Atlanta Falcons: TB +7 (Bet365)

Market Watch

With the Falcons on a bye last week, nothing much has changed between the look-ahead line and the opener. Both had Atlanta as -7 point favorites.

Much like Thad Lewis and the Bills, Mike Glennon is being undervalued here.  Or is it a case of overrating Atlanta?  It's likely a combination of both, but I can't justify why Atlanta is favored by this much.

So far, 54% of the bets are on the home team.

When the Buccaneers have the ball

Josh Freeman might be gone, but Mike Glennon brings a very similar skill-set to the table. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? On the bright side, the negativty and drama that came with Freeman is gone. They can move forward focusing on Glennon's development, and he can do so in a supportive environment.

The downside is he's still a work in progess. The passing game has had trouble all year playing behind an inconsistent offensive line. He does have nice receiving options on the outside, but for this offense to get going they'll need more from the run game. Thus far, they rank near the bottom of the league in run efficiency. To move the chains and help nurture a lead, they need to convert on the third and shorts.

With Carl Nicks out with another infection, the interior of the offensive line is in big trouble.

Yet, all this might be irrelevant. Let's take a look at some of the advanced stats for this Falcons defense.

Even with a quality defensive coordinator in Mike Nolan, this unit has been horrific this year. They don't have much of a pass rush unless they blitz. They rank dead last in third down efficiency and pass defense. They also can't protect a lead or stop anybody inside the red zone.

The Bucs offense might be sputtering in neutral, but they should have more than enough opportunities to get going this week.

When the Falcons have the ball

Matt Ryan is on the cusp of being a great quarterback, but without protection it's hard to expect him to live up to that level. Pressure isn't going to relieved from the run game either because Steven Jackson is still banged up. On the outside, Julio Jones is done, which is almost as detrimental to the pass game as Calvin Johnson. They could take solace in Roddy White, but he's also battling injury.

This leaves an aging Tony Gonzalez and inconsistent Harry Douglas. With all due to respect to these guys, this offense leaves much to be desired with all that's going on.

It's also alarming when Atlanta's offense ranks high in third down efficiency, but near the bottom in red zone efficiency. Punching the ball into the end zone has been a problem all year long.

This is bad news for Falcons fans because the Bucs defense is no joke. They went to great lengths to shore up their pass defense this year, and so far it's worked. They might not be maximizing what Revis can do, but his presence alone has transformed the seconday into an above-average group.

They remain as stout as ever against the run, and they step up to the challenge on third down and in the red zone. Lavonte David is always all over the field and Gerald McCoy is getting a nice push up front.

Unless Ryan steps up to have one of the best games of the season, this offense is going to struggle to put up points.

Bottom Line

In terms of X's and O's, this game is a similar matchup to the Jets/Falcons from two weeks ago.  The best unit on the field is the Bucs defense, and they match up really well with this banged up Falcons offense. The difference is they had Julio Jones before. Now they don't. Roddy White is banged up, and so is Steven Jackson. Trade rumors are swirling Tony Gonzalez, and they still have issues on the offensive line.

Tampa Bay's offense isn't any better. Nor is their offensive line. The interior got exposed last week and Glennon isn't going to scare any defensive coordinators anytime soon. That said, this Falcons defense is pretty poor. They have nice raw talent in their secondary, but they are going through serious growing pains. They rank near the bottom of the league in pass defense efficiency. Even worse, this unit can't get off the field in crunch time, which is a problem that dates back to last season.

I'll grab the points in what should be a sloppy affair.

NFL Pick: TB +7.
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