Hi, hello and welcome to Week 9 of the National Football League! I’m Steve Cook, and we actually had a pretty good week of football in Week 8. Sure, Jags vs. Titans was what it was, but Sunday was full or close, exciting football games. We get to take a week off from the narrative of the NFL being bad this season and maybe Week 8 is a sign of things to come.

As far as potential Thursday night matchups go, I like this one. The Falcons have been hot lately but always seem to find trouble when they play against Tampa. Should be a good one, though I haven’t seen the Color Rush uniforms for this week yet and both these teams could be scary looking.

Thursday, November 3

Atlanta (-3.5) at Tampa Bay

I’ve been skeptical about the Falcons, and why not? They’re known for getting off to decent starts, tricking people into thinking they might be a contender, and then folding like a tent. They seemed to be heading in that direction recently, but came back on Week 8 with a win over the Packers in a pretty exciting game. As usual, the Falcons’ strength is their offense. Matt Ryan leads the league in passing yards & touchdowns, and is first in quarterback rating among those who have played more than four games. Julio Jones is second in receiving yards.Mohamed Sanu has been a great addition to the passing game. The rushing attack has been solid thanks to the combination of Devonta Freeman & Tevin Coleman, who are both effective pass-catchers as well. Coleman might be back from injury this week, which would definitely help the Falcons’ cause.

As usual, the problem is that defense. They’ve given up the fourth-most yards in the NFL and the second most points. On the bright side for fans, that means Falcons games are high-scoring & fun to watch. On the down side for the Falcons and their fans, if their offense has a bad game they’re in trouble. They gave up 31 points to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 and lost an important division game in the Georgia Dome. Falcons coach Dan Quinn is 0-3 against Tampa Bay since taking the helm.

This week we go down to Tampa…but is that a good thing for the Bucs? They’re 0-3 at Raymond James Stadium this season, including a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Raiders this past Sunday. Jameis Winston’s second season in the NFL has been decent but hasn’t lived up to expectations. It’s tough to blame it all on him though, as his only consistent offensive weapon is wide receiver Mike Evans. Evans shares the league lead in receiving touchdowns, is 8th in receiving yards & has done everything he can to carry an offense without a solid second receiver & that will be starting their fourth running back this week.

When you run the ball as much as the Bucs do, you’d like some more consistency there. They found something with Jacquizz Rodgers the last couple of weeks, but now he’s out with a sprained foot and they’re looking at Antone Smith, Peyton Barber & Mike James for answers. Not ideal on a Thursday night, or any other night for that matter.

I think there are too many question marks on the Bucs offense to keep up with a Falcons offense that won’t exactly be slowed by Tampa. Picking the road team has been risky on Thursday night, but I like the Falcons to break their losing streak against the Bucs and pad their NFC South lead.

Week  8 Results: 6-6-1

2016 Results: 59-57-4