Atlanta Falcons (0-1, 0-1 ATS) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0, 0-1), 4:05 p.m.
Implied Team Totals: Falcons 19.75, Buccaneers 32.25
Spread/Total Movements: 12.5 to 11.5 to 12.5, 52.5 to 52
Weather: 85 degrees, 60% chance of rain, 5 mph
Falcons Injuries to Watch:
Buccaneer Injuries to Watch: S Jordan Whitehead (hamstring), slot CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (elbow, IR)
Brolley’s Falcons Stats and Trends
These teams have played over the total in six straight meetings in this series.
The Falcons are 6-2 toward unders in their last eight games.
The Falcons are 7-1 ATS under Matt Ryan when they’re double-digit underdogs.
Matt Ryan had a brutal first showing under Arthur Smith, averaging 4.7 YPA without a single offensive touchdown. He absorbed three sacks while being pressured on 41% of his dropbacks, which is troublesome going against the league’s best defensive line this week. He posted 621/5 in two games against the Buccaneers with 44+ passes in each contest, and Tampa Bay just faced 58 passes from Dak Prescott.
Calvin Ridley got off to a sizzling start last week before cooling off like the entire offense, finishing with just 5/51 receiving on eight targets. He managed 18/215/1 receiving against the Buccaneers last season and Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb combined for 20/243/3 receiving in this matchup last week.
Russell Gage finished second in targets (31) last week but he failed to catch either of his two targets — he caught at least two passes in every game last season. He played out of the slot on just 53% of his routes after doing it 68% of the time last season. Gage scored in both games against the Bucs last season on his way to a combined 14/159/2 receiving.
Kyle Pitts got crushed like every Falcon last week with just 4/31 receiving on eight targets, but better days are ahead based on his usage. He saw a 23% target share and he ran a route on 79% of Ryan’s dropbacks (31 of 39). Cowboys TEs combined for 9/65 receiving against the Buccaneers last week.
Mike Davis posted a respectable 15/49 rushing (3.3 YPC) and 3/23 receiving in his debut with the Falcons, but Cordarrelle Patterson showed he’s going to be a little more than a gadget player under Smith. Patterson led the Falcons with 7/54 rushing and he added 2/13 receiving while playing 33% of the snaps to Davis’ 73% share. We shouldn’t expect much success from this backfield after they limited Ezekiel Elliot to 11/33 rushing and 2/6 receiving in the season opener. Davis managed only 7/32 rushing and 4/12 receiving in his only matchup against the Bucs last season while playing with the Panthers.
Brolley’s Buccaneers Stats and Trends
The home team is 6-2 ATS in the last eight meetings in this series.
The Buccaneers are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games (playoffs included)
Tampa Bay is 4-1 toward overs in their last five games as a favorite.
Tom Brady has thrown for multiple TD passes in 12 straight games (postseason included) after throwing for four scores in the season opener. He did throw two INTs but one was on a Hail Mary and the other clanked off of Leonard Fournette’s hands. TB12 hung a ridiculous 789/6 passing in two games against the Falcons last season.
Chris Godwin led the Buccaneers in routes (50), targets (13), and catches (9) on his way to 105/1 receiving in an impressive season-opening performance. He also just missed a 47-yard touchdown connection early in the fourth quarter and he fumbled at the doorstep of the goal line later in the game. Godown posted a combined 9/169/3 receiving in two games against the Falcons last season.
HC Bruce Arians, who first worked with Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh, has been saying all summer that Brown is playing at speeds he once saw earlier in his career after undergoing off-season knee surgery. Bruce wasn’t lying to us with his assessment. AB torched the Cowboys for 5/121/1 receiving (24.2 YPR) on seven targets while playing 65% of the snaps. Brown should be viewed as a WR2 going forward with potential to become a WR1 if he unseats Evans or Godwin in 12 personnel. Don’t think twice about using him against a Falcons secondary that he ripped for 16/231/3 receiving in two matchups last season.
Mike Evans posted a measly 3/24 receiving on six targets against the shadow coverage of Trevon Diggs while Godwin, Brown, and Gronk each went for 90+ receiving yards with at least one touchdown. Evans and Brady never really looked on the same page as the veteran quarterback just missed connecting with him for two big gains, which would have drastically changed his fantasy fortunes. Evans has a great spot to rebound against a Falcons’ defense he posted 8/156 receiving against last season in two games, but Brown is clearly going to command more looks this season.
The Buccaneers played their best offensive players across the board in their season-opening victory over the Cowboys, including Rob Gronkowski who played on 88% of the snaps compared to a 28% rate for Cameron Brate and 9% rate for O.J. Howard. Gronk didn’t disappoint with his expanded role, catching all eight of his targets for 90 yards and two touchdowns in their victory. We’ll keep an eye on the usage of Brate and Howard in the upcoming weeks, but Gronk should be considered as a top-12 TE for as long as he dominates snaps in one of the league’s best offenses. That includes this week against a Falcons’ defense he posted 5/58 receiving against in two matchups last season.
It didn’t take long for Ronald Jones to find himself back in Arians’ doghouse to start 2021. Leonard Fournette opened the game with the starters before ceding snaps to Jones, but RoJo quickly found himself back on the sidelines for the remainder of the game after he fumbled on the first play of Tampa Bay’s fifth drive. RoJo finished with just 4/14 rushing and he played just 9% of the snaps. Fournette didn’t exactly light the world on fire in Week 1 — he dropped a pass that resulted in an interception — with 9/32 rushing and 5/27 receiving on 29 routes. Giovani Bernard ran 15 routes and finished with 2/12 receiving as the team’s hurry-up back. We’re week to week with this backfield, but Fournette is the best bet to be the top runner this week, and he scored twice against the Falcons in Week 15 last season.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Week 1 – Pace (seconds in between plays): 21.7 (7th)
Week 1 – Plays per game: 67 (19th)
Week 1 – Pass: 61.2% (16th) | Run: 38.8% (17th)
Week 1 – Pace (seconds in between plays): 21.5 (5th)
Week 1 – Plays per game: 68 (17th)
Week 1 – Pass: 78.8% (1st) | Run: 21.2% (32nd)
The Bucs and Tom Brady got out of the gates hot in Week 1 and are in a near perfect spot to explode again here. Brady absolutely shredded the Cowboys on the Bucs’ early-down pass attempts as Tampa went 75% pass-heavy on 1st and 2nd down plays and gained 8.5 yards on those snaps. Last week, Atlanta got beat by Jalen Hurts to the tune of 8.2 YPA on early-down throws. The Falcons are a well-known shootout team – their last 17 games have combined to score 49.9 points total – and this meeting between these two teams went off to combine for 58 and 71 points in Week 15 and 17 last year. The only concern I have about this game is that the Falcons get down early, fail to really threaten Brady and the Bucs on the scoreboard, and then Tampa’s defense just takes over and shuts down Atlanta. We need the Falcons to show up here for this game to cruise past the 52 total.
(Note: We’re dealing with very small sample sizes early in the season – so I’m saving the deep dive into play-calling tendencies until Week 4.)
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Personnel usage under new HC/play-caller Arthur Smith and OC Dave Ragone called for 56% of snaps with multiple TEs in Week 1. It’s a rate that more than doubles the one from the previous season. Considering they selected Kyle Pitts earlier than any TE in NFL history, I'm pretty sure that rate alteration isn’t going to catch anyone off guard. And, just as Smith utilized during his time in Tennessee and Ragone in Chicago, the Falcons used a Zone-heavy approach to run blocking.
For Tampa Bay, DC Todd Bowles’ scheme rotation was far from the one he used last season. However, with Jordan Whitehead absent, and Sean Murphy-Bunting departing early with a dislocated elbow, perhaps it was out of necessity to adjust to available personnel. Assuming that to be the root cause, the expectation is that we’ll see the scheme return to its previous form over the next few weeks.
Look, Bucs QB Tom Brady is good against all coverages, and certainly Falcon DC Dean Pees knows that and will try to disguise them. But Pees just might not have the personnel to execute the way he likes to, as evidenced by last week’s rout Philly put on him. I think Brady’s favorite targets in this game, based on coverage history, will be Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski, for what that’s worth.
As for Atlanta, I don’t like the matchup for anyone — that shouldn’t be surprising, given what Philly’s DL did to their OL last week — with the exception of TE Kyle Pitts. Pitts was Atlanta’s primary slot receiver in Week 1, and the Bucs lost Murphy-Bunting, one of the NFL’s premier slot defenders, to a dislocated elbow.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
Atlanta was an abject disaster last week, and it started up front on both sides of the ball. The most glaring issue for the Falcons was their offensive line, which was completely overmatched by the Eagles’ defensive line. That’s bad news, because Tampa Bay’s defensive line offers little reprieve.
While EDGE Jason Pierre-Paul (hand) might not play, that wasn’t the overall issue — it was the interior rush that got to QB Matt Ryan. Rookie LG Jalen Mayfield sported a PFF pass-blocking grade of 1.4, the lowest in their history. And now he has to line up across from Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh. Yikes. Ryan is not in 1-QB league consideration.
Say a prayer for poor Matt Ryan. Jalen Mayfield got the Eagles DTs this week... and now gets Vita Vea. pic.twitter.com/dFqQkprFBL— Joe Dolan (@FG_Dolan) September 15, 2021
As Wes mentioned above, I’m mostly interested in Kyle Pitts from the Falcons’ perspective. He had 8 targets last week, and though he posted just 4/31, he saw a 23% target share and he ran a route on 79% of Ryan’s dropbacks (31 of 39). Cowboys TEs combined for 9/65 receiving against the Buccaneers last week.
You kind of just have to suck it up with Calvin Ridley. While I don’t think you can expect the Falcons to put up numbers anywhere close to what the Cowboys did last week given the state of the Falcons’ offensive line, Ridley did post 18/215/1 in two games with the Buccaneers last year. He’s still a WR1.
In the backfield, Mike Davis got bellcow usage in Week 1, but I contend that Cordarrelle Patterson looked better than him, and we know what happened to Ezekiel Elliott last week in this matchup. Davis is a FLEX option with major downside.
For the Bucs… START ‘EM! It’s a fantastic spot across the board for the entire passing game, and I do think Mike Evans will rebound in a better matchup — he had 8/156 in two games with the Falcons last year.
In the backfield, the only guy I can consider is Leonard Fournette, who posted 21.5 FP in the meeting between these two teams in Week 15 last year. That’s despite what Bruce Arians said about Ronald Jones this week… nobody loves lying about his RBs the way Arians does.
Bucs’ HC Bruce Arians said today that RB Ronald Jones will start Sunday vs. the Falcons. “And he's ready to roll,” Arians said.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 14, 2021
If you're looking for any clarity on Bucs' RB situation and Bruce Arians saying Ronald Jones would start vs. Falcons on Sunday, he said on his weekly radio show of his top three running backs: "They're all starters." Doesn't mean any one is on the field for the opening snap.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) September 16, 2021