As of Tuesday evening, Odds Shark -- an official partner of SB Nation -- lists the Falcons as a 6.5 point favorite over the Bucs for Thursday's prime-time contest at the Georgia Dome. Of course, this line can change, and the spread will likely increase as the week progresses.
Though the Falcons' offense amassed just 10 points against the Bengals, Matt Ryan and Co. should return to form this week. Atlanta doesn't often struggle at home, and Tampa isn't as formidable of an opponent as Cincinnati.
The Bucs' defense is above-average, yes, but they have a few key names on the injury report -- the most notable being DT Gerald McCoy, who broke his hand on Sunday vs. St. Louis. It's possible McCoy suits up on Thursday, but that remains up in the air: The former third overall pick didn't participate in Tuesday's practice.
Indeed, Dirk Koetter's unit is in a good position to light up the scoreboard. Question is, can Atlanta stop Tampa from doing the same?
As you, the Intelligent Fan, probably know, the Falcons' defense has been a mess so far in 2014. A complete disaster. Atlanta has surrendered 58 points and 944 yards in two games -- good for 27th and 32nd in the league, respectively.
However, the Bucs, who are 28th in the league in total yards, don't exactly have a lethal offense. Far from it. Josh McCown isn't the worst quarterback in the NFL, but he isn't capable of winning games on his own, either. And while the veteran signal caller has a few weapons at WR, none of his receivers have more than 86 yards on the season.
Undoubtedly, the Bucs want to rely heavily on the ground game and get Doug Martin and Bobby Rainey a lot of reps. Martin sat out last week with a hurt knee, but he was a full participant in Tuesday's practice and is listed as questionable. Expect him to play against the Falcons. Given the current state of Atlanta's run defense, the former Boise State Bronco could have a big night. He may need to have a big night for Tampa to cover the spread.
My pick: Falcons (-6.5). Atlanta has the superior roster, will enjoy home-field advantage and is motivated to atone for last week's failure. The Bucs will be motivated, as well, but they just lost to a middling Rams squad that was forced to play its third string QB. How much confidence can you have in them after that performance? The Falcons should win by at least a touchdown.
(Note: gambling addiction is a problem that affects millions of Americans every year. If you or a loved one experience signs of gambling addiction, call this toll-free, 24/7 hotline: 1-800-522-4700).