Free Picks: Atlanta Falcons vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Falcons at Buccaneers NFL
Atlanta Falcons vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL, Raymond James Stadium

For the second time in the final three weeks, the Buccaneers (10-5) and Falcons (4-11) meet in an AFC South matchup. This time, Tampa Bay has a playoff spot secured, and they can use this Week 17 meeting to get prepped — while the Falcons are just one game away from the offseason and are coming off of consecutive victories against the spread.

Buccaneers have something to play for vs. Falcons in Week 17

No, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cannot advance past their current position as the five-seed in the NFC. But they still have something real to play for this week, given what that five-seed placement represents.

If Tampa Bay can win, as 6.5-point favorites (-107 at 888Sport) on various betting sites, they’ll face the NFC’s four-seed, which will be a relatively weak team from the NFC East. That would genuinely be advantageous over, say, slipping to the six-seed facing either the Packers, Saints or Seahawks.

With that in mind, Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians gave an encouraging yet non-committal answer in regard to resting starters this Sunday: “We’re going to play to win. Eleven and five, that’s very rare. To have a chance to get to 11-5, keep that seeding – we want that seeding just for pride. We don’t care who we play, it’s more for pride.”

You could argue that the Falcons will play for pride too, but that’s all that’s at stake for them. Considering their season has essentially been over for weeks, though, Atlanta has put up an impressive fight in recent weeks.

The Falcons have lost four in a row straight up, but all of those losses have come by five points or fewer. And they’ve covered the spread in consecutive games — including as six-point underdogs against the Buccaneers two weeks ago.

If you want a straight-up team to pick, perhaps for a multi-game parlay, the Buccaneers (-305 at 888Sport) are still the right way to go. But the Falcons frequently find themselves in one-score games (as they have on 10 occasions this season) and managed to cover the spread two weeks ago, when the circumstances of these teams were essentially the same as they are now.

Stats

  • Atlanta is 6-4 ATS in its past 10 games
  • The UNDER has cashed in seven of the Falcons’ past nine games
  • Tampa Bay is 6-4 ATS in its past 10 games
  • The OVER has cashed in five of the Buccaneers’ past nine games

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Jordan Horrobin is a freelance sports journalist based in Toronto, Ontario, who enjoys sports-related research and telling engaging stories. His work can also be found at Sportsnet, Forbes and elsewhere. Though he abandoned most of his team-specific fandoms in the interest of unbiased analysis, Jordan roots hard for his fantasy football/hockey teams (and he's a complete homer for all things Ohio University). You can follow Jordan on Twitter at @JordanHorrobin

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