Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons
Start-time: Friday, 01:30
TV: Live on SS1
There's no time for either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the Atlanta Falcons to wallow in their economy-sized vats of self-pity, as the proverbial short week beckons for both with this Thursday Night Football clash. Primetime viewing it ain't, but it does offer each side the chance to swiftly banish the ghosts of turnovers past.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will be suffering from the night terrors more than most, after he hit the buffers spectacularly in Cincinnati - just one week on from the best figures of his career (448 yards for three TDs). Last Sunday, though, Ryan posted only 24 completions off 44 passes for a miserly 231 yards. While his one touchdown was outweighed by three interceptions. In short, Cincy's large defensive line overpowered him, blitzing and sacking the QB with bruising efficiency.
So the telling question is which Ryan will report for duty four days later? The answer lies in this week's venue (Atlanta's home fortress of the Georgia Dome) and this week's opponents, the hapless Bucs.
A perfect storm of freak events (from blocked kicks to meddling intervention from both the elements and officials) conspired against Tampa last week. Yet if they can't convert at home to lowly St Louis (rudderless after losing starting QB Sam Bradford to a torn ACL for the second straight year), what chance do they have of bouncing back at an intimidating stadium with some of their best players recovering on the treatment table?
Two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (fractured paw) and linebacker Mason Foster (dislocated shoulder) comprise the latest casualties on a growing hit-list. Exciting cornerback Mike Jenkins has even been scratched for the whole campaign with a torn pectoral.
Those that are fit and firing are hardly setting the world alight either. But at least Josh McCown has discovered some utility in minimizing the mistakes under center, while Bobby Rainey looked positively useful after 144 yards of ground gains against the Rams.
McCown is clearly no rainmaker. Ryan, on the other hand, makes the weather in the Georgia Dome. Now that his receivers are back on song (Julio Jones, Roddy White, Harry Douglas and Devin Hester) "Matty Ice" can make the corrections to prove last week's lacklustre effort a temporary blip. Even the Atlanta D will be keen to atone for a game of poor tacking and poorer discipline (a litany of personal fouls).
In short, redemption beckons for the Falcons, an outfit which can really lift and shift at home. They can cover a multitude of spreads with their quartet of wideout flyers. As for the Bucs, well, it'll be back to wallowing in that mire of melancholy, I'm afraid. In 2009 and 2013, they lost their opening seven games and this season's beginning - embryonic as it is - appears alarmingly familiar.
Back Atlanta Falcons (-6.5) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 1.981/1 or better
Back Atlanta Falcons (-3.5) to win on the First Half Points Spread @ 2.01/1 or better
Back Atlanta Falcons to win Half Time / Full Time @ 1.558/15 or better
Back J. Jones to score First / Anytime Touchdown 9.08/1 or better