The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off their bye and are going into one of their division match-ups on the road. After taking a thrashing from the Chicago Bears, the Bucs travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons. Let’s take a look at some of the areas the Falcons excel and where they can be exploited.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered this season with low expectations, but after a 2-0 start, things have changed. Since then, the Tampa defense has been exploited and they’ve given up 78 points in two games with a record of 0-2 in that span. The Bucs made no changes internally during the bye and face one of the scariest offenses in the NFL.
While the Falcons have one of the scariest offenses, they also have one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Their struggles are not due to scheme, like the Bucs, but the Falcons lost multiple defensive starters in the first two weeks of the season.
The Falcons’ season is on the line this week and they’ll look to come out firing on all cylinders to try and save it. The Buccaneers are in a similar situation, but there may be serious changes if things don’t improve.
The Atlanta Falcons’ offense is explosive. While they struggled in their last game against the Steelers, they were in the game for the first half until their defense failed them. Matt Ryan is still in the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks averaging 320 yards per game on 68% completion. He is also seventh in the league with 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He can be this productive because he has an elite receiving core.
Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Mohammed Sanu are a formidable trio. Julio is third in the NFL in receiving yards with 564 yards. Calvin Ridley leads the league in touchdowns with six, and Sanu has 184 yards in the last two games. Jones also loves going against the Buccaneers. In twelve career games, Julio has 83 catches, 1413 yards, and 10 touchdowns.
Those are good numbers for a 16 game season, let alone 12 games. Bucs fans can’t forget the last road game against Atlanta where Julio had 253 yards and two touchdowns. The Buccaneers secondary has struggled mightily against the pass allowing 358 yards per game.
Dead last in the league.
I expect the Falcons’ aerial attack will continue to have success this week.
The Run Game
Like the Buccaneers, the Falcons offense has not been able to utilize their rushing attack to its full effectiveness. The Falcons average 89 yards per game which are good for 26th in the league but have five rushing touchdowns, good enough for 8th in the NFL. The Falcons ground game has struggled so far, but their starting running back, Devonte Freeman, was injured in Week One and just returned last week on a pitch count.
The one-two punch of Freeman and Tevin Coleman as a duo are each a threat on the ground or in the air. Freeman and Coleman each have a nice combination of speed, receiving ability, and could punch it in on the goal line if needed. The Buccaneers’ defense has been able to contain the ground game by only allowing 69 yards per game. The one area that hurts the Bucs is when the opposing offense can pass as successfully as they have, which means they don’t need to run the ball.
They Like Their Tight End
The Falcons can also utilize their tight end, Austin Hooper, this week. The Bucs have struggled against the tight end position this year giving up 104 yards per game to opposing tight ends. Hooper had his best game of the year against Pittsburgh with nine catches for 77 yards, so look for him to have another successful week against the Bucs.
The one area where the Atlanta offense has struggled is protecting their quarterback. They’ve allowed 16 sacks so far, which is the eighth most in the league. If the Buccaneers want to slow down Matt Ryan, they should try to bring the pressure as much as possible.
As good as the Atlanta Falcons offense has been, their defense is the complete opposite. The Falcons were crushed by injuries to start the year by losing their starting safety. Not long after that, their linebacker Keanu Neal and Deion Jones. Both players were expected to be the leaders of the unit. They also lost their number two corner Ricardo Allen to a torn achilles in week three.
With all their injuries, the defense was expected to take a significant drop off and it really has. The Falcons allow 398.6 yards per game, 28th in the league, and 32.6 points per game, 31st in the league. The Buccaneers are the only team that is worse in both categories.
The team has struggled to get off the field as well, worst 3rd down percent at 55%, and have given up 100% of all fourth down attempts. That’s only four, but still not great. They are also fairly undisciplined with the third most penalties, 42, for 383 yards.
The Falcons pass defense has been bad. They are averaging 277 yards against per game, and that includes week one where Nick Foles struggled mightily and only put up 117 yards. In the four other games, they are allowing 330 passing yards and three touchdowns per game. Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and Chris Godwin should feast as much as the Falcons receivers should.
The Bucs’ Run Game
The Buccaneers’ running game has been horrendous ranking 30th in the NFL. However, the Falcons’ defense isn’t great against the run, 25th, allowing 121.5 yards per game and has allowed the most rushing touchdowns with eight. Peyton Barber has not surpassed 70 yards yet this season and has not scored a touchdown.
Looking back, you can see that Barbers’ carries have declined each game. While Barber may not struggle given a full workload against the Falcons, the Bucs have activated Ronald Jones who will take away carries. This game might not include much running because there is a big chance of a shootout on Sunday.
The Bucs x-factor on offense will be the return of the connection of Cameron Brate and Jameis Winston. The Falcons are only allowing 46 yards per game to opposing tight ends, but Winston’s favorite red zone target is Cameron Brate. Without Keanu Neal and Deion Jones, the middle of the field should be wide open. Adam Humphries could have a productive game as well.
FALCONS SPECIAL TEAMS
Not the biggest impact on the game but the Falcons special team is always a threat to add points to the board. Matt Bryant has yet to miss a field goal this season, seven for seven, and two of those kicks have been beyond 50 yards. Bryant did miss an extra point this year but is still in the top ten for extra points made.
Matt Bosher has been below average this season with only 35.8 net yards per punt, 30th overall. He has had two punts blocked this year so they are susceptible to a block. Bucs have yet to block a punt this season but it would be nice to see happen this weekend.