The Tampa Bay Buccaneers open their 2016 NFL season against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, and they’ll get an immediate chance to distance themselves from their division rivals. The Carolina Panthers lost their first game last night, and beating the Falcons would put the Bucs on top in the NFC South — possibly sharing the top spot with the New Orleans Saints.
That would be a pretty good start to the season, and the Bucs have a good chance of pulling that off. They looked close to dominant in the third preseason game, although that was against the Cleveland Browns. The Falcons, on the other hand, struggled in the preseason, and it remains to be seen whether their leaky defense has been adequately addressed — and whether they’ve fixed the whole ending the season on a 2-7 streak thing.
The Bucs are expecting big things out of Jameis Winston and Mike Evans this year, but still want to run the offense through Doug Martin. Meanwhile, the defense looks much-improved so far, especially the pass rush. Rookie Noah Spence and free agent addition Robert Ayers bring a whole new dimension to a pass-rush that has been lackluster for far too long. Vernon Hargreaves and Brent Grimes should help in the turnover part, but the safety position is still a major weakness.
We’ll see how all of that holds up to reality on Sunday. Here’s everything you need to know to watch the game.
Buccaneers vs. Falcons 2016
Sunday, September 11, 1:00 p.m. ET
Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
FOX will air the game in large parts of Florida and Georgia, you can find the full viewing map here. Sam Rosen and David Diehl will be calling the game.
The Atlanta Falcons are three-point favorites.