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Falcons host rapidly sinking Buccaneers
NFL Picks
spt ap Falcons Ryan
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan passes against the Cincinnati Bengals in an NFL game on Sunday in Cincinnati. - photo by The Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were supposed to be vastly improved this year. The standings show a big, fat zero in the win column.
Yes, the talent base looks good on both sides of the ball. New coach Lovie Smith was a winner in Chicago and has brought a freshness to the environment in Tampa.
Yet his team lost two straight at home, both in close calls, but still defeats. Next up is Thursday night’s trip to Atlanta.
“That wasn’t a part of the master plan,” Smith said. “As much as anything for us, if we can just get to 1-2, get that first win. We weren’t able to get it done at home and that’s disappointing.”
Getting the victory could be made tougher by star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy’s broken left hand. He’ll be a game-time decision.
Atlanta fell flat in Cincinnati one week after a rousing comeback win against the Saints. Whether or not McCoy plays, the Falcons must find a way to better protect quarterback Matt Ryan, who comes off a bad performance.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that Matt is going to bounce back,” said the other coaching Smith in this matchup, Atlanta’s Mike. “I know we’ve got to take care of the football. That’s the most important thing.”
The Falcons, tied for 17th in the AP Pro32 with, oddly, the archrival Saints, are 6 1/2-point favorites over No. 30 Tampa Bay. That spread is too big.
FALCONS, 23-20

No. 32 Oakland (plus 14) at No. 7 New England — Raiders get routed before heading across Atlantic. ... BEST BET: PATRIOTS, 33-10
No. 12 Chicago (plus 2 1/2) at No. 19 New York Jets, Monday night — Did the guys who set the line not see the second half last weekend for both teams? ... UPSET SPECIAL: BEARS, 27-20
No. 1 Denver (plus 4 1/2) at No. 2 Seattle — How much did Broncos learn from Super Bowl beating — and Chargers’ upset over Seahawks last week? Enough to cover, if not win. ... SEAHAWKS, 27-26
No. 27 Kansas City (plus 4 1/2) at No. 21 Miami — Battered Chiefs must feel like it is Week 13, not Week 3. ... DOLPHINS, 20-10
No. 13 Indianapolis (minus 7) at No. 31 Jacksonville — Time for Colts to wake up in Jaguars’ home opener. ... COLTS, 23-13
No. 6 San Francisco (minus 3) at No. 8 Arizona — Cardinals can prove they are THE team in tough NFC West. Not quite ... 49ERS, 19-14
No. 20 Pittsburgh (plus 3 1/2) at No. 5 Carolina — Panthers’ defense what the Steelers wish they still had. ... PANTHERS, 22-13
No. 9 San Diego (plus 2) at No. 11 Buffalo — If Buffalo goes to 3-0, we’ll start believing. ... CHARGERS, 27-21
No. 14 Baltimore (minus 1) at No. 25 Cleveland — If Cleveland goes to 2-1, we’ll start believing. ... RAVENS, 19-17
No. 24 Washington (plus 6 1/2) at No. 4 Philadelphia — How far can Eagles fall behind this week and still win? ... EAGLES, 30-20
No. 23 Tennessee (plus 7) at No. 3 Cincinnati — Slew of injuries for Bengals could slow them down here. ... BENGALS, 23-20
No. 22 Dallas (minus 1) at No. 28 St. Louis — We now know DeMarco Murray is most important Cowboy. ... RAMS, 26-24
No. 10 Green Bay (plus 1 1/2) at No. 16 Detroit — Packers ride momentum from comeback vs. Jets. ... PACKERS, 33-31
No. 15 Houston (minus 2 1/2) at No. 29 New York Giants — Giants fall halfway to last year’s 0-6 in a squeaker. ... TEXANS, 17-16
No. 26 Minnesota (plus 9 1/2) at No. 17 (tie) New Orleans — Saints come home limping, but this is a good matchup for them. ... SAINTS, 34-20

2014 RECORD: Against spread: This week (6-9-1); Season (13-15-3). Straight up: This week (8-8); Season (18-14)
Best Bet: 1-1 against spread, 1-1 straight up.
Upset special: 2-0 against spread, 1-1 straight up.