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Bucs vs Falcons: Five keys to victory

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The Bucs and Falcons meet up in the battle for a higher draft position.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys
Jameis Winston is hoping to spend less time on his back against Atlanta.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay enters its final game with nothing to play for other than a draft pick. Technically, it’d be better for the Buccaneers to lose this game to preserve a higher selection but we don’t root for losses at Bucs Nation. Well, at least not me.

This is likely the final game of the Dirk Koetter era for the Bucs. I can’t say that I’m too sad to see it end. It just never seemed like this staff could provide much development or put players in the best position to have success.

Atlanta and Tampa Bay both entered the season with playoff aspirations. They’ll end the 2018 campaign as middle of the pack teams who each hold their fair share of issues.

1. Pressuring Matt Ryan

While the Falcons have struggled to move the ball on the ground since Devonta Freeman went down early in the season. That being said, Matt Ryan has still performed like vintage Matty Ice.

The veteran quarterback has completed 69.2% of his passes while throwing 33 touchdowns to just six interceptions. Despite his performance, Ryan has been under pressure for most of the season, he’s been sacked 41 times.

That should be the Bucs mantra on Sunday. Making Ryan as uncomfortable as possible with Jason Pierre-Paul pressuring his blindside.

2. Limiting Julio Jones

Atlanta does have a few capable threats through the air but Julio Jones is without question the best. Jones has nearly double the amount of production as the Falcons No. 2 wide receiver, Calvin Ridley. The former Alabama star has 104 catches for 1,539 yards and seven touchdowns.

Ridley and Mohamed Sanu have been good but they haven’t displayed the level of consistency as Jones. If the Bucs can limit an ailing Jones, they’ll give themselves more of a shot to stop Atlanta’s offense.

3. Finding success on the ground

The Falcons haven’t been very good on defense this year and one of its worst areas have been stopping the ground attack. Adversely, Tampa Bay has been extremely inconsistent running the ball all season.

After finishing with 65 yards on the ground with an average of 2.6 yards per carry, the Bucs offensive line should being able to create more holes against an Atlanta defense that is the sixth worse in the NFL at defending the run. Peyton Barber isn’t an elite back, but he runs as hard as anyone in the league.

4. Protecting Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston was under constant pressure a week ago against Dallas’ elite defensive front. He was sacked three times and under duress countless others.

When Winston has time to deliver his passes, he’s shown that he can make plays through the air. Tampa Bay’s offensive line simply has to protect him long enough for that to happen.

Atlanta has 36 sacks on the season and four different Falcons have five or more of them. They can bring pressure a variety of ways and this game will go a long way in determining the fate of Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson.

5. Limiting turnovers

Tampa Bay has been hinged by turnovers for most of the 2018 season and that was no different in Dallas. The Buccaneers lost two fumbles against the Cowboys, with one being returned for a touchdown in a seven point loss.

Dirk Koetter’s team has committed a league high 34 turnovers in 15 games. On the flip side, Atlanta has forced just 18 turnovers all season. There’s no guarantee they won’t beat themselves again, but if the Bucs limit their turnovers, their odds of winning this game skyrocket.