Coming off a dominating 47-7 victory last week over the Lions, the 10-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers will close out the season Sunday with their second matchup of the year against the Atlanta Falcons. Playoff-bound for the first time since 2007, the Bucs can lock up the fifth seed in the NFC with a win and a date with the winner of the NFC East in the Wild Card round.
The Bucs needed a thrilling come-from-behind victory just two weeks ago to beat the Falcons (4-11). Matt Ryan threw for 356 yards and three touchdowns, Calvin Ridley caught 10 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown, and Atlanta jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead. However, large deficits to the Falcons are nothing Tom Brady can’t handle as he threw for 320 yards and two touchdowns in the second half as the Bucs put up 31 points to best Atlanta 31-27. Mike Evans caught six passes for 110 yards and Antonio Brown scored his first touchdown as a Buccaneer in the Week 15 win. Look for Brady and the Bucs to get off to a much faster start this time around.
“We’ve got to get to Matt Ryan better than we did in the first half of the last game,” Bruce Arians said this week.
Bucs Running Game, Offense Round Into Form
The Bucs will be without Devin White and Shaquil Barrett due to placement on the reserve/COVID-19 list, however, they will get back running back Ronald Jones, who has missed the last two weeks with his own stint on the list. In addition to his COVID-related absence, Jones has also been nursing a broken finger. His return should spark a running game that has been relying more on Leonard Fournette and rookie KeShawn Vaughn. Jones is currently 13th in rushing, but he averages 5.0 yards per carry. A valuable skill come playoff time.
Bucs have curiously added running back LeSean McCoy to the injury report for Sunday as “questionable,” though it’s noted as not being injury related.
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) January 2, 2021
Ideally, the Bucs will be in firm control of the game and Brady will not have to play the second half. Albeit against a few teams that are not heading to the playoffs, the Bucs offense has seemed to turn the corner at the right time. A dominating first half against the Falcons will be all you need to see in order to feel confident in this team moving forward. Regardless, it is an offense no team really wants to face come playoff time. Despite their 1-5 record against playoff teams, can you really bet against Brady-led teams in the playoffs?
I didn’t think so.