The Buccaneers will wrap up the season Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium against a division opponent the Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons and Bucs season have sort of mirrored one another as both teams got off to horrendous starts and have played much better the second half of the season.
The Falcons were 1-7 at the halfway point and at one point were 3-9 and now have a chance to finish 7-9 with a win Sunday against the Buccaneers.
The Falcons announced on Friday that coach Dan Quin and General Manager Thomas Dimitroff will return for the 2020 season.
The Bucs also had a miserable first half of the season due to a lot of growing pains in the secondary with the rookies and second year players, but have played much better in the second half going 5-2 with a chance to finish the season 8-8.
The Bucs beat the Falcons 35-22 in week 12 of the season at the Georgia Dome, as the Bucs pressured Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan all afternoon long sacking Ryan six times and holding him without a touchdown pass.
The Falcons were missing wide receiver Julio Jones and tight end Austin Hooper in that game. Jones, when healthy is one of the best receivers in the game. Jones had 10 catches for 166 yards last week against Jacksonville.
One of the more interesting matchups this game will be Carlton Davis against Jones. Davis who is fast becoming one of the most physical corners in the league held Texans All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins to five catches for 23 yards and no touchdowns.
Davis has gotten better every game the second half of the season and Arians will have no problem having Davis cover Julio Jones one on one.
An interesting fact about this young Bucs secondary according to Buccaneers.com. Since the Bucs released Vernon Hargreaves in week 11, the Bucs secondary has an overall pass rating of 67.3 which is good for second in the league. The Bucs are also allowing 6.1 yards per pass attempt good for 4th in the league.
Jones and Hooper back healthy will add a whole different look for the Falcons offense and will present a unique set of challenges for the Bucs defense.
Jameis Winston comes into this game with a chance to become only the 12th player in NFL history to pass for over 5,000 yards in a season. Winston is currently sitting at 4,908 yards passing yards on the season.
The Bucs will have to play without their two best offensive players, as receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin will sit out the season finale. Rookie receiver Scotty Miller will also miss the game with his hamstring injury.
Winston will rely on Breshad Perriman and Justin Watson again in the receiving game and also look for tight ends Cameron Brate and OJ Howard.
On playing without his top two playmakers Winston said “It’s all trust, and make no mistake, it doesn’t matter who’s out there. We’re going to go out there and we’re going to trust them and we’re going to let it fly. We’re going to be more open to the flow of the game.
Without their top two playmakers last week against Houston, the Bucs were able to move the ball effectively as they put up 425 yards on offense but only scored 20 points which was nine points below their season average.
Bucs linebacker Lavonte David was named to the All-Decade team this week. David has flown under the radar and been of the most underrated linebackers the last decade around the NFL, but has been a staple at linebacker in Tampa since his rookie season in 2012.
David has 999 tackles and will go over 1,000 tackles for his career in the game against the Falcons. David will join fellow Buccaneer legends Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, and Hardy Nickerson in the 1,000 tackle club.
Todd Bowles has the highest respect for Lavonte David, “He’s one of my favorite players. I think he’s a complete football player. He plays the run very well. He plays the pass very well. He can blitz. He can play zone. He can play man. He’s very intelligent – he has a lot of football savvy and he understands the game, and that’s priceless.”
Linebacker Shaq Barrett will try again to break Warren Sapp’s all time Buccaneer sack record of 16.5 as he needs just half a sack to break the record.
Bruce Arians wants to win this badly to finish 8-8. The Falcons want to win this game to continue the momentum of the second half of the season to finish 7-9.
Even with all the injuries on the offensive side of the ball, the Bucs should have enough firepower to beat the Falcons and end the 2019 season on a high note.