The Atlanta Falcons bring a two game winning streak to Tampa, while the Bucs stumble into this game with a two game losing streak. It’s an October showdown for first place in the NFC South.
If would have told you in August that the first weekend of October, the Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons would be playing for first place in the NFC South, you would’ve had me committed.
Yet, here we are, The Buccaneers 2-2 and on a two-game losing streak, and the Falcons are also 2-2 but on a two-game winning streak.
The Falcons beat Cleveland Browns 23-20 as they ran the ball for 202 yards. The Bucs were blown out at home by Kansas City 41-31, allowing 189 yards on the ground.
What’s surprising about the Bucs’ 2-2 record is that they are 0-2 at home.
If not for a defensive meltdown in the opener against New Orleans, the Falcons would be 3-1 and in first place in the division.
The Falcons bring the number four running attack in the league to Raymond James without their most important offensive player, Cordarrelle Patterson.
Todd Bowles talked about the Falcons running game with the media this week.
Patterson was placed on the IR this week after a knee procedure and will be out for four weeks. In Patterson’s absence, Caleb Huntley and Tyler Allgeier will carry the rushing load.
The Falcons also have a mobile quarterback in Marcus Mariotta, who contributed to those rushing yards.
The Falcons will also be without tight end Kyle Pitts as he is dealing with a hamstring injury.
After allowing 71, 100, and 67 yards on the ground the first three games of the season, the Buccaneer’s run defense imploded last week, allowing 189 yards against the Chiefs.
Despite the Chiefs having their will running the ball against the Bucs, the run defense remains 12th in the league giving up 106 yards a game.
This will be a good test for the Buc’s defense. We will find out quickly whether the game last week against the Chiefs was a blip on the radar screen.
The Falcons have one of the worst passing attacks in the NFL. The Falcons rank 29th in the league averaging 181 yards a game.
With no Kyle Pitts and Calvin Ridley suspended for the season for gambling, rookie Drake London has emerged as the number-one passing target for Mariotta. London has 18 catches for 231 yards and two touchdowns.
Without Patterson and Pitts, no one on the Buccaneers is taking this team lightly. Chris Godwin talked this week about the Atlanta matchup.
“I think one of the biggest things is that they’re playing with a lot of momentum right now. They won two straight, and they’ve got a lot of talented young guys that are hungry.”
It’ll be a challenge for us. Add on top of that; it’s a divisional opponent. I think everyone understands that we’re all fighting for first place in the division, and they’re going to come in here and give us their best shot.”
After finishing 26th in yards and 30th in points allowed in 2021, the Falcon’s defense is improving. Grady Jarrett anchors the defensive line and the pass rush. That is a big reason why the pass rush is having such an impact this season.
Here are three keys to the Buccaneer’s winning on Sunday.
The Bucs have to get back to playing good run defense. It is shocking how this team has regressed this season in defending the run. That’s where it has to start on Sunday. Don’t let the Falcons nickel and dime you and chew up the clock going down the field.
The Bucs’ defense has to be better on third down. In the first half against the Chiefs, the Bucs’ defense allowed Kansas City to convert 8/9 third down conversions and finished the Chiefs’ finished converting 12/17.
Last season the Bucs were one of the best defenses on third down. Unfortunately, that has not been the case this season.
Put the ball in Tom Brady’s hands more.
The Bucs are at their best offensively when Brady throws 25-35 times a game. However, now that their full complement of receivers is healthy (minus Russell Gage), this offense should take off.
Last season Brady threw for 644 yards and nine touchdowns against Atlanta.
The defensive line has to apply more pressure on the quarterback. Vita Vea has struggled, and Logan Hall has not found any consistency with his game. Sunday against the Falcons needs to be that game where Vea and Hall find that rhythm, and we start to see what this duo is capable of.
Finally, the Bucs have to find a way to run the ball. I know the offensive line has had some injuries, but the Bucs ran for just six yards on three carries against Kansas City. It’s not like the Chief’s defense is the second coming of the great Steel Curtain defenses of the 70s or a replica of the 86 Bear’s defense.
The bottom line is that the Bucs’ defense has to do a better job in all areas.
Leonard Fournette has to do better. The offensive line has to do a better job opening holes for the running backs. The Falcon’s defense is ranked 20th in the league, giving up 126 yards a game.
I like the Bucs to win this game, 34-17. The Falcons will put up a lot of yards on the ground, but the defense will make the stops when needed.
Look for Leonard Fournette to have an excellent rebound game as he rushes for 100 yards, and Tom Brady will have his second 300-yard passing game of the season.
The Bucs go to 3-2 and will be in first place in the NFC South.
And once again, all is well with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.