Falcons 27 - Bucs 21
The Bucs look like an improved team in 2016 and this game could be much harder than it has been in the past. Tampa Bay is also bringing Coach Mike Smith back to the Dome for the first time since he was fired two years ago. However, while I expect a close game, I think the home team pulls this one off. I truly believe the Falcons offense will bounce back in this game and the fears from the preseason will be quickly forgotten. The young defense may have some bumps in the road, but Tampa’s questionable OL is ripe for disruption. Given the sad nature of the losses to the Bucs last year, the Falcons will be anxious to prove something in this game - and I think they’ll do it.
Falcons 26 - Bucs 21
I know the Bucs swept the Falcons last year and I like the moves they made. Minus trading up in the second round for a kicker with accuracy problems. I’m underwhelmed with Atlanta’s free agency. I’ve been down on the Falcons since they signed Mohamed Sanu, the offense looked even worse in preseason… and here I am picking Atlanta to win. I have no good reason for this opinion, but I think the team can put it together. Some interesting rookies, a developing roster, and Kyle Shanahan’s typical but brief offensive success early in the season makes this feel like a win.
Falcons 23 - Bucs 20
Most NFC South games feature a competitive game that doesn’t include many offensive explosions. The average defenses manage to pick up their game and don’t allow too many big plays. This game will depend on a few turnovers and matchups. Despite being very productive in both matchups, Julio Jones didn’t create any big plays, as Lovie Smith didn’t want his secondary to get beat deep. Mike Smith’s defense will gamble more, which forces Matt Ryan to adapt and find mismatches. Stopping Doug Martin will be essential for the defense to get off the field. Protecting the ball and converting red zone opportunities are important as well. Atlanta will do just enough to past a much-improved Tampa Bay team.
Falcons 27 - Bucs 24
Looking at this matchup, you can’t help but notice the talent both teams are presenting in terms of skill positions. It’s completely subjective, but I like to think that Atlanta has the edge in all of them with players like Julio Jones, Desmond Trufant, Devonta Freeman, and Matt Ryan edging out their Tampa counterparts. You have to consider last season’s struggles, but I have the Falcons winning a close one due in part by a big play from any of the guys mentioned above.
Falcons 28, Bucs 13
Remember when the Bucs swept the Falcons last season? Yeah, well this team is pissed. Atlanta’s going to set the tone early against with lots of sacks and interceptions. Former coaches Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith won’t know what hit ‘em. Likely, the game will be a hell of a lot closer than this, but I dare to dream.
Falcons 28, Bucs 24
It’ll be close, frustrating, and occasionally unbearable to watch, as these NFC South games tend to be, but I do believe this improved Falcons team is up to the task of dispatching the Buccaneers at home. Starting the season 1-0 after this long, speculative offseason would feel awfully nice.