Tampa Bay Times' Bucs picks
Greg Auman, @gregauman Atlanta 31-27: Tampa Bay has won three straight against Atlanta, and Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith know the key personnel well. Atlanta is very much like Oakland — prolific QB, weak defense that it consistently has been able to overcome. Lack of Bucs run game and tired defense from demanding Sunday loss push this — barely — toward the Falcons.
Thomas Bassinger, @tometrics Atlanta 27-23: The outcome of this game will come down to the health of Julio Jones, who missed some snaps Sunday against the Packers because of a left knee injury. In nine games against the Bucs, he has caught 60 passes for nearly 1,000 yards. When these teams clashed in Week 1, the Falcons climbed back into game after falling behind 31-13, but their rally stalled when Jones tweaked his ankle in the fourth quarter.
Martin Fennelly, @mjfennelly Atlanta 34-28: It took a few more weeks than we figured, but it turns out the Bucs defense might be as lousy as the Bucs offense. That the offense isn't giving the defense enough help will only go so far, and Matt Ryan and the Falcons will prove that tonight, especially if Julio Jones is healthy enough to torment the Bucs secondary. A game effort, but the Bucs begin a true slide beneath the waves.
Ernest Hooper, @hoop4you Atlanta 24-13: I never thought the Bucs would lament not having Bobby Rainey on the roster, but Rainey would be welcome relief given the team's decimated running back corps. Home teams are 6-2 in Thursday night games, but it doesn't appear the Bucs will extend the trend with a patchwork rushing attack and a quarterback who vacillates from good to bad on every possession if not every throw.
Tom Jones, @tomwjones Tampa Bay 27-20: There is no earthly reason why the Bucs should be picked to win this game. I mean, did you see that loss to Oakland? But playing at home on a short week and success in Week 1 against Atlanta make me think the Bucs might figure out a way.
Rick Stroud, @NFLStroud Atlanta 34-24: The Bucs are running on empty. They lost their third-string running back and starter Jacquizz Rodgers. The defense played 93 snaps in a five-quarter loss to the Raiders in which QB Derek Carr passed for 513 yards. Anyone notice the Falcons have the league's best offense and QB Matt Ryan leads the NFL with 19 TD passes?