Buccaneers head north for an NFC South showdown with the suddenly hot Atlanta Falcons. The Bucs hope their defense can slow down last year’s NFC Champion.
The Bucs are riding high on the heels of their two game winning streak. The defending NFC champions are also riding a two game win streak of their own and look to be returning to their 2016 form.
Keys to the Game:
The Buccaneers defense forced Jay Cutler into throwing three interceptions in the first half on Sunday against the Dolphins. They will look to do much of the same this week. In the early parts of the season Falcons Quarterback, Matt Ryan, looked nothing like he did in 2016. In the first five games of the season under new OC, Steve Sarkisian, Ryan threw just as many interceptions (six) as he did touchdowns (six). Ryan had two multi-interception games as well during that span.
However, in Ryan’s last five games he has looked like a much different QB. He’s thrown nine TD’s compared to only two picks. His passer rating has skyrocketed from 87.3 to 104.9. The point here is, Ryan has shown the ability to make mistakes and the Bucs must capitalize on any opportunities he provides them.
Atlanta this season has struggled against mobile quarterbacks. Over the course of their last three games, the Falcons have allowed a total of 214 rushing yards and three touchdowns to the opposing quarterbacks. Granted, those quarterbacks were Cam Newton, Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson. Fitzpatrick is just mobile enough that he could cause some issues for the Atlanta defense. The Bucs might be wise to use some play-action bootlegs to get Fitz out on the edge.
The Atlanta defense also struggles defending against the Tight End position. This past Monday night, they allowed Jimmy Graham to catch seven passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. The Bucs has two very solid TE’s of their own. They should look to get Cameron Brate and rookie O.J. Howard involved early and often.
The Bucs cannot allow defensive lapses against an offense of the Falcons caliber and expect to win.
The Bucs had a comfortable 20-7 lead heading into the 3rd quarter last week in Miami. Yet, somehow they let the Dolphins back into the game. Matt Moore engineered three scoring drives in the second half. Including a 61 yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 20 late in the 4th quarter.
Tampa simply cannot let that happen against the Falcons. Atlanta’s offense is loaded with playmakers at just about every position and will make you pay for your mistakes. It is critical that the Buccaneers defense stay focused the whole way through. This is even more important now that Atlanta’s offense seems to be gelling and looking more like the unit of last season.
Head coach Dirk Koetter and Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith are very familiar with the Atlanta Falcons. They both should be able to construct a game plan on how to contain the offensive weapons that Atlanta has. Koetter especially. He was the OC for the Falcons when they had both Matt Ryan and Julio Jones and worked with them on a daily basis.
What neither Koetter, nor Smith are familiar with is the Falcons defensive personnel. Atlanta’s defense is young, fast and hits hard. That’s where the difference will be this week. Both teams will score points, but former Buccaneer, Adrian Clayborn has been on a tear lately. Plus, the Falcons are starting to force turnovers. Something they had been lacking for a good portion of the season. In the last three games alone, Atlanta has forced six turnovers.
Atlanta’s defense and offense prove to be too much this week for a Bucs team that is still without their starting quarterback. Not to mention the Buccaneer’s last two wins have come against the Jets and the Dolphins, who are a combined 8-12 on the season.
Final Score: Atlanta wins 31-20
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