The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Atlanta Falcons tomorrow for the first time this year. Both teams have won two games in a row and are looking to build on that momentum, with the Bucs hopingnon that extremely small playoff chance, while the Falcons are in the thick of the playoff race.
Let’s go to the preview.
Reviewing the Falcons’ last four games:
Atl 25, NYJ 20 W
Atl 17, Car 20 L
Dal 7, Atl 27 W
Atl 34, Sea 31 W
The Falcons have won three out of their last four games, but who they beat is just as important as their winning tally. Atlanta defeated the Jets; we beat the Jets. Dallas has been reeling since they finally are without RB Elliot, they were recently embarrassed on Thanksgiving day against the Chargers. Seattle was and is still missing some top defensive backs.
Reviewing the Falcons’ four losses:
Buf 23, Atl 17 L
Mia 20, Atl 17 L
@NE 23, Atl 7 L
@Car 20, Atl 17 L
Do you see that pattern developing? Prevent the Falcons from scoring over 20 points and you vastly increase the potential for a winning result.
A team can run against the Falcons defense, but cannot score against the same defense. This is a terrible matchup for the Bucs’ offense, especially with left guard Evan Smith out this weekend due to a concussion. The Bucs may have to induce a facsimile of a run game via the screen passes to either the RBs or TEs.
Believe it or not, but the Bucs offense has improved on its scoring prowess since the Panthers game.
The Bucs received an additional seven points in the Miami game due to a last second, ditch effort to win on a kickoff lateral when LB Beckwith recovered the ball in the end zone. Still, that is 23 points scored. That is progress, though not the astronomical progress many of us would enjoy, but progress nonetheless.
The Bucs defense has shown they can shut down the run game for at least a half in the past four games. They have been dominant for both halves in the latter two games.
Reviewing the Bucs’ last four games:
Car 17, TB 3 L
TB 10, NO 30 L
NYJ 10, TB 15 W
TB 30, Mia 20 W
While many fans have already written off the Bucs, I am still following them with hopes of finding some pattern of consistency. We can see the beginning of the dominance against the run game, per half. The Bucs defense did contain the Saints run game for the first half, but the Saints broke it open in the second half.
Please notice that for the past four games, the Bucs defense has kept opposing offenses to 20 points or less in three games.
Another positive item for the defense is it played well on the road to secure a win! That was the first win on the road with a good performance overall to secure a win. Limiting any offense to 20 points or less is a great feat, considering the defense was giving up 31.3 ppg in the previous three away games!
The Bucs are growing in confidence on both sides of the ball. Despite having an abysmal run game, thanks to the run blocking unit, the offense is still moving the ball and scoring points with its backup QB, Fitzpatrick. There is resurgence in the defensive play while still trying to find consistency in playing both halves well.
What the defense does not get a lot of credit for is that they are missing pass-rushing specialists in DE Jacquies Smith and DE Noah Spence. Smith returned a shell of his talented self and Spence’s shoulder cannot keep his socket in place any longer. DC Mike Smith has been working through many adversities throughout the season, but now has found a groove finally that his LB corps is fully healthy.
Will I be surprised to see the Bucs win this Sunday? No.
This game means more to the Falcons than the Bucs. This game is to determine if the Falcons are contenders or pretenders on the season. The trend I found is that the Falcons struggle against good defenses and found themselves in fortunate situations in the past two games.
Should the Bucs win this Sunday, then they will find themselves back into a playoff chase and dictate that the Falcons are pretenders on the season. But all this is predicated on the Bucs defense playing both halves well.
Bucs 24, Falcons 17