The Week 15 schedule concludes with an NFC South clash between the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Game time is 8:30 EST on Monday, December 18 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN.
The Falcons enter Monday’s game as 6-point favorites. Early betting has favored Atlanta, who opened as 4-point favorites. The over/under is set at 47.5 points. Click here to check out a full list of the Week 15 betting odds and links to more game previews.
Falcons vs Buccaneers Vegas Odds Preview
With three weeks left in the season, the reigning NFC champion Falcons are still fighting for a playoff spot. At 8-5, Atlanta is currently tied for the final wild-card spot with the Seahawks. The Falcons beat the Seahawks earlier this year, giving them a potentially important tiebreaker over Seattle.
Atlanta also has a chance to win the NFC South. They are just a game behind both the Saints and Panthers, the two teams they play the final two weeks of the season. Those games will obviously be important. But the Falcons still can’t afford to drop a game to the Bucs, especially after winning four of their last five games to put themselves in a good position heading down the stretch.
The Bucs, meanwhile, are out of the playoff race with losses in their last three games. Tampa Bay is just 4-9 on the season, losing eight of their last 10 games. Amidst the losing streak, there are rumblings of a rocky relationship between head coach Dirk Koetter and quarterback Jameis Winston, which isn’t helping the team finish the season strong.
Of course, Winston didn’t play when these two teams met three weeks ago in Atlanta. The Falcons won that game 34-20, putting up over 500 yards of offense.
Free Betting Pick & Predictions: Bucs +6
With the spread on its way up, I’m not comfortable swallowing this many points. I’ll lean toward the Bucs at home to at least keep this game close on a Monday night. Even with their own playoff hopes dashed, Tampa Bay will be excited to play spoiler and hurt Atlanta’s playoff hopes.
Despite a rough season, the Bucs are 3-3 at home this season, and only one of those three losses have come by more than a touchdown. Last week against another playoff contender, the Bucs stormed back in the 4th quarter to tie the game, so clearly they’re not giving up on this season. The Bucs also lost that game to the Lions by only a field goal despite five turnovers, which is concerning but also shows their ability to stay competitive in games.
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With Winston back at quarterback and somewhat healthy after a shoulder injury, the Bucs are never out of games. He actually excels in helping his team overcome deficits late in games, something he’s done the past two weeks. Even if it’s not enough to lead the Bucs to a win, Winston’s ability late in games makes it less likely that the Falcons will be able to win this game comfortably and cover the spread.
I also have some concerns after Matt Ryan’s performance in recent weeks. The Falcons beat the Saints last week despite three interceptions by Ryan, all of which were truly horrific throws. After playing well for much of November, Ryan has struggled the past two weeks, which is a concern moving forward. Even against a Tampa Bay defense that he handled with ease a few weeks ago, I’m not completely convinced Ryan will have a strong performance Monday night.
After the way Ryan and the Falcons have played the last couple of weeks, I don’t see them having an easy game in Tampa. Atlanta may end up winning, as they are definitely the more desperate team. But with nothing to lose, I think the Bucs will play surprisingly well. I don’t feel comfortable swallowing six points, so I’ll take my chances with the underdog Buccaneers at home.