Falcons look to play spoiler against the Bucs
The Buccaneers can clinch a playoff spot this weekend, their first playoff berth in 13 years.
The Bucs would need to beat the Atlanta Falcons and have the Chicago Minnesota game end in a tie.
The Bucs 8-5 will take on a Falcons team that has been a major disappointment this season. The Falcons fired Dan Quinn and replaced him with Raheem Morris, who coached the Bucs from 2009-2011.
The Falcons have two ex-Buccaneer head coaches on Raheem Morris and Dirk Koetter staff, the offensive coordinators.
The Bucs will be without their left tackle Donavan Smith and running back Ronald Jones, who was put on the Covid 19/reserve list. Jones suffered a broken pinkie in the win against the Vikings, so it was not a sure thing he would be able to play.
Josh Wells will step in for Smith, while Leonard Fournette will get the start at running back.
That means we will see more of LeSean McCoy this week, and rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughan will be the third back.
The Falcons have no shot at that playoffs and will be looking to play the spoiler role, as the Bucs and Falcons will square off twice in the final three games.
The Falcons will be without wide receiver Julio Jones who is out with a hamstring injury. Jones has been hampered by injuries all season and has always been a pain for the Buccaneer defense.
Matt Ryan will still have Calvin Ridley, an excellent receiver, as his primary target. Ryan is throwing for 270 yards a game and has connected with Ridley 67 times with eight touchdown passes. Ridley has six games this season with 100 yards receiving.
Russell Gage and Olamide Zaccheaus will get a lot of the reps in place of Julio Jones.
Todd Gurley has been a disappointment this season for the Falcons. Gurley has run for 645 yards with nine touchdowns and 3.6 yards per carry.
Who can forget Gurley scoring the touchdown late in the game against the Lions with one minute to play, giving Matt Stafford enough time to rally The Lions for a 23-22 win.
Defensively, the Falcons still have Grady Jarrett along the defensive line, with Deion Jones at linebacker and Keanu Neal at safety.
The Achilles heel of this Falcons team has been the defense, as they are giving up 390 yards a game, which is 30th in the league. The Falcon’s pass defense has been just as bad, giving up 281 yards a game.
The Falcons do not generate much of a pass rush as no one on the Falcons defense has more than 3.5 sacks.
Ryan Succop, Bradley Pinion, and Zack Trinor were all on the COVID-19/reserve list earlier this week for the Buccaneers. All three took multiple tests this week that turned up negative and will play for the Bucs on Sunday.
The Bucs are favored by 6.5, and I would be surprised if the game is that close.
The Bucs are a better team than the Falcons. Tom Brady and the offense need to start quickly and score early and often.
The Bucs will get their ninth win of the season as they will beat the Falcons 38-21 to move closer to a playoff spot in the NFC.