The Falcons handled business again this week, beating the Panthers by two touchdowns. Atlanta had a hard time containing Christian McCaffrey, but the defense didn’t allow a single point in the second half. Atlanta moved on to 3-2 in Divisional play, and now has the chance to sweep two of the three teams in their division to close out the season. This season has been a roller coaster ride, with more downs than ups. This team looks to have no quit in them even though they are out of the playoff race. Let’s take a look at what you need to know heading into the final game of the Falcon’s season.
Like the Falcons, the Buccaneers have had a very up and down season. Jameis Winston was suspended at the beginning of the season, so Ryan Fitzpatrick was the starter. In their first two games Tampa went into New Orleans and Fitzpatrick out-dueled Drew Brees. They then went on to knock off the defending Super Bowl champions. It has basically been all downhill from there. Since winning their first two games, they have gone on to win just three more throughout the season. They also had a case of quarterback carousel between Fitzpatrick and Winston. Winston has ultimately won his starting position back.
When The Bucs came to Atlanta earlier this season Matt Ryan threw for 355 yards, while Julio was on the receiving end of 144 of them. Atlanta came out victorious, winning 34-29. Mike Smith, the defensive coordinator for Tampa Bay, was fired the day after the game. Since firing Smith the Bucs are still allowing 25.7 points per game, which would be ranked 10thworst in the league. While Atlanta has improved on defense since their last matchup, I still think this game will end up in a shootout.
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The Falcon’s defense had another good showing against the Panthers this past week. Taylor Heinicke, who started in place of injured Cam Newton, had a rough first career start. He threw three interceptions on the day, and also left with an injury, but was able to finish the game. Atlanta only sacked Heinicke twice, but the pressure was constant throughout the game. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Atlanta didn’t do a great job of containing Christian McCaffrey. He had over 150 yards from scrimmage on the day. What matters most is that Atlanta won the turnover battle and held the Panthers scoreless in the second half. In terms of passing offense, Tampa Bay has one of the best in the league. This Falcon’s defense could have their hands full in their final game of the season.
Fast forward to next season and I believe this Falcon’s team will be much improved. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a shake-up amongst the assistant coaching staff. Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen will be back with a vengeance and Atlanta is likely to add a defender in the first round of the draft. Dan Quinn has done a great job drafting during his tenure with Atlanta and I expect the 2019 draft to not be much different. Look for Atlanta to add to their defensive and offensive lines come free agency. This season was rough, but the best is yet to come with this Falcon’s group.
Going into the season Atlanta looked like they could compete for a championship on paper. Injuries derailed that hype train pretty quick. It is concerning Atlanta will either finish the season with a 6-10 or 7-9 record with the talent they have on the roster. However I do believe in Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff. Four of Atlanta’s losses this year were one score games. If things swung their way they could be looking at a playoff spot right now. It takes some luck to be successful in the NFL, which Atlanta just didn’t have much of this season. Their matchup against the Bucs will likely be a close one, but Atlanta should come out on top, capping off a dreadful season with a victory.