It’s not a must-win by the purest definition of the term, but a Tampa Bay Buccaneers win over the Atlanta all but clinches a post-season trip for the first time since 2007.
The return of cornerback Jamel Dean should give the defensive unit a solid boost against the Atlanta Falcons offense playing without star wide receiver Julio Jones. Keeping Matt Ryan looking like an aged shell of himself is going to be important as a bounce back performance is expected for the Tampa Bay rush defense as well.
As we always do, let’s take a look at the inactive players from each side of this Week 15 NFC South match-up.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
K, Greg Joseph (Elevated for today’s game)
QB, Ryan Griffin
WR, Justin Watson
TE, Antony Auclair
DL, Khalil Davis
WR, Julio Jones
RB, Qadree Ollison
CB, Darqueze Dennard
S, Ricardo Allen
OT, John Wetzel
DT, Marlon Davidson
After being a healthy scratch against the Minnesota Vikings, running back Leonard Fournette is once again active and expected to get a large share of the rushing opportunities with Ronald Jones II out for the week on the Reserve / COVID-19 list.
For the Falcons, the loss of Julio Jones for yet another game is obviously a big one. Just as big though are the absences of cornerback Darqueze Dennard and safety, Ricardo Allen.
After trying to have rookie AJ Terrell follow their opponent’s best receivers against the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Chargers without success, we expect the Falcons secondary to try and match-up against the Bucs in more traditional manners.
This means an all-hands on deck kind of approach as Atlanta tries to contain Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, and Scotty Miller. Oh, and then there’s Cameron Brate and we all know Tom Brady likes throwing the ball to running backs when he can.
A tall task facing the Atlanta Falcons for sure, but any given Sunday any team can beat the other. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are missing some key names entering this weekend’s match-up, and the biggest might be Donovan Smith.
Fortunately for them, the Falcons have plenty to be worried about as well, as one team prepares for a new era for their franchise, and Tampa Bay tries to take one more step towards the playoffs.