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Buccaneers vs. Falcons 2016 picks: Experts favor Atlanta in NFC South game

The Falcons and Bucs are both looking to make some noise in the NFC South this year.

We get an NFC South battle to kick off the 2016 NFL season this Sunday when the Atlanta Falcons host divisional foes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both teams have reason for hope but also some nagging concerns heading into the season.

The biggest question facing the Falcons is this: which team shows up? The one that started the 2015 season 6-1, or the one that crashed and burned in the second half to finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs? Julio Jones remains one of the league's deadliest weapons and Devonta Freeman emerged as a premier running back, but Matt Ryan badly regressed into a turnover machine. The Falcons need him to get back on track if they want to be contenders again.

On the other side of the ball, the defense still has few playmakers outside of cornerback Desmond Trufant, and the pass rush remains a major concern. Dan Quinn and Kyle Shanahan looked like a coaching dream team in the first half of last year, but they have some big questions to answer heading into their second season together.

The Bucs jettisoned Lovie Smith after a 6-10 season and promoted offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. This is good news for Jameis Winston, who blossomed under Koetter's tutelage in his rookie year. With Doug Martin, Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson anchoring the offense, Winston is well-positioned to take a big leap in year two.

But the Bucs' defense still struggled, despite having franchise cornerstones in Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David. They took some steps to fix their secondary, signing Brent Grimes and drafting fellow cornerback Vernon Hargreaves. They also traded up to draft a kicker in the second round, but we'll try not to dwell on that too much. At any rate, the Bucs have playoff potential if Winston and company develop as expected.

For the most part, NFL experts are predicting the Falcons to take this home game. At ESPN, eight out of nine writers who submitted picks are siding with Atlanta. However, it's a completely different story at CBS Sports, where six of eight people favor the Bucs.

Here at SB Nation, our experts are leaning towards the Falcons by an 8-2 margin, with Adam Stites and Joel Thorman as the only ones to pick Tampa.

Game RVB Stephen White Thomas George Jeanna Thomas Adam Stites Tyler Tynes Louis Bien Joel Thorman Fooch OddsShark computer
TB vs ATL ATL ATL ATL ATL TB ATL ATL TB ATL ATL