Don't worry everyone, the two days without football are over. All of you SnapCallers out there can start to predict the Week 3 action tonight as the 0-2 Buccaneers head into the Georgia Dome to take on Matt Ryan and the 1-1 Atlanta Falcons. For those of you with larger monetary appetite, the Falcons are laying 6 points at home tonight. Too big? Too small? Whichever side of the fence you're on, we've got the info to help you sort out your pick. Let's dive in:
We start with the injury report, and that leads us directly to the visitor's locker room. The man once known as the "Muscle Hamster," Doug Martin, is once again not going to start this week. He'll give way to speedster Bobby Rainey. Martin banged up his knee in Week 1 against Carolina, and missed the team's second game. Still, he's practiced all week, and could get a few touches in this one if he makes it through warm-ups. It's odd, because generally, when your bell-cow running back is healthy enough to suit up, he's healthy enough to start. Head coach Lovie Smith has been animate in saying he wants to use a backfield by committee this year, but words are one thing, and actions are another. It's possible that Tampa Bay is just riding Rainey's hot hand after he racked up 174 total yards on 25 touches in Week 2. Still, Bucs beat writer Rick Stroud tweeted that Rainey's start is "not just because of Doug Martin's knee. The coaches really do like [Rainey]." In addition, Martin is averaging a paltry 3.41 yards per carry over the last two seasons, so we could be seeing a shift in philosophy. Rainey, a speed-back, fits more with an uptempo, pass-first offense. Think of a poor-man's Darren Sproles. Since Tampa will probably be playing from behind for a good portion of this game, don't expect many power running looks for Martin. Sorry fantasy owners.
The Falcons on the other hand are fairly healthy. WR Roddy White has been dealing with a sore hamstring, but it seems like he's on the injury report every week, and always toughs it out. This one is set to be a shootout, and in an important divisional game, we'd bet good money that Roddy won't leave his QB hanging.
As we said, we anticipate Tampa playing from behind tonight, but that most definitely does not mean that this game will be a blowout. The Matt Ryan-Julio Jones-Roddy White combination may be as daunting as any QB-WR-WR trio in the league, but the pirates from the Gulf Coast have a few tricks of their own. While QB Josh McCown hasn't put up eye-popping numbers quite yet, we saw what he was capable of last year while filling in for Jay Cutler in Chicago. With the Bears, he had two gigantic receivers as targets. He may not have Marshall or Jeffery anymore, but Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans are proving to be a big, lethal combination in their own right. Considering that Atlanta has given up an average of 317 yards through the air this season, ranking 31st in the NFL, it's safe to say we'll see McCown take quite a few shots down-field. Watch for big plays tonight on the turf. It may be crazy, but we wouldn't be shocked to see four different receivers reach triple-digit yardage tonight.
So we have some on-field trends, now what does the sports book have to say? Even as a 4-12 team last year, the Falcons averaged 24 points per game at home. Now, with a healthy roster, they should be good for at least 30. Let's disregard their injury riddled 2013 campaign. In 2012 Atlanta went 13-3 in the regular season, covering the spread 9 times. At home though, they went 7-1, covering 5 times. Who could have possibly beaten them at home that year? That's right, Tampa Bay.
On the Tampa side, it's nearly irrelevant to reflect on last year, as there's a new QB in town, and a plethora of other new faces on the offense. Although we have a limited sample size this year, the Bucs have failed to cover twice, and the under has hit both times.
All in all, it's safe to say that Matt Ryan will lead the Falcons into the end zone quite a few times. Josh McCown should be able to keep up for a while against a feckless ATL defense, but is he ready to lead an impressive upset? The easy money is on a Falcons' victory, but don't be shocked if we see a last minute back-door cover to shatter the hearts of handicappers everywhere. Remember, you might be good, but Vegas is better.
Tune in at 8:20 PM ET tonight when SnapCall kicks off it's coverage of Week 3!