The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off a good 26-14 win against the Minnesota Vikings in week 14, snapping their two-game losing streak. Now, sitting at 8-5, the Bucs will travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons in the first of two games in the final three weeks of the season. Tom Brady and the Bucs enter the game as seven-point favorites for Sunday’s game against the 4-9 Falcons. Brady was solid coming off the bye-week, passing for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
In addition to their season-long struggles, they have lost three of their last four, they will be without wide receiver, Julio Jones. In their last three losses, they have only managed 42 points. Now, they will have to do it without their best offensive weapons against a defense that has shown, at times, they can be one of the elite ones in the league.
The Falcons are no strangers to bad runs. After they lost five straight to start the year, they fired head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff, the same duo that helped the Falcons get to Super Bowl 51. Since Brady and the Patriots came back down 28-3 in Super Bowl LI, the Falcons haven’t been able to recover. This year, the Falcons defense ranks 28th in the NFL, giving up 390.6 yards per game. They also have no one with more than 3.5 sacks as they have struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Good news for Brady.
On The Road Again
The Buccaneers will play an away game for the first time in 34 days. Their last came Week 10 against the Carolina Panthers. Since then, they’ve played three straight games at Raymond James with a bye-week mixed in. On the year, the Bucs are 4-2 away from Tampa with one of those two losses coming in Week 1 against the Saints. With the wildcard likely, the Bucs will have to play an away game if they maintain their hold on the sixth spot in the NFC playoffs.
In order for the Bucs to win this game, they need to get off to a fast start. Something that has been an issue as of late on both sides of the ball. With Atlanta’s limited pass-rush ability, expect Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski to have a standout game against the Falcons secondary on Sunday. With the absence of Ronald Jones, the Bucs may have to throw the ball quite a bit.
On the defensive side, it’s all about getting to Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Not having Jones will help as more attention can be paid to the other Flacons receivers and backs. However, the Bucs have been prone to some sloppy and undisciplined play, especially on the tackling side and even without Jones, the Falcons could put up some points. And, with nothing to play for, the idea of playing spoiler for the Bucs could prove as great motivation.
The Buccaneers could really change the narrative of the team by taking care of business these last three games. With two against the Falcons and one against the Lions, they should be favored in all through and will look to finish the season 11-5, securing their first playoff appearance in over a decade.