After losing two in a row the Buccaneers have now rattled off two wins, at home against the New York Giants and on the road in a come from behind bid against the Indianapolis Colts. Now, their attention turns to a division rival as they head on the road again to take on the Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons are somehow still in the hunt for a Wild Card spot, having gone 5-4 since their 48-25 loss to the Buccaneers in week two. They’re currently on the outside looking in with a 5-6 record and coming off a win against the Jacksonville Jaguars. However they continue to be without their top receiving threat - Calvin Ridley - who has taken a leave of absence to deal with some mental health issues. Their top draft pick, Kyle Pitts, has been serviceable but not as advertised. Pitts has just six games with 50 or more receiving yards but had back-to-back standout performances against the New York Jets (nine receptions, 119 yards, one touchdown) and the Miami Dolphins (seven receptions, 163 yards). He has just the one receiving touchdown on the season and that occurred in week five. Against the Buccaneers the first time around he finished with five receptions for 73 yards.
The Falcons’ big weapon has been the surprise emergence of Cordarelle Patterson. Patterson has over 900 total yards this season (411 rushing, 500 receiving) to go along with nine total touchdowns while leading the NFL in yards per touch with 6.8. In fact, against the Buccaneers it was Patterson that kept Atlanta in the game early on. He finished with 69 total yards and two scores.
The Falcons’ defense has been less than stellar this season, allowing 368.1 yards per game (22nd), 236.9 passing (14th), 124.9 rushing (23rd), and 27.5 points per game (31st). The Buccaneers currently have the number one offense in the league with 31.5 points per game and are third in total offense with 401.7 yards per game, which includes a league best 305.9 passing yards per game. For comparison, the Buccaneers defense is allowing 23.0 points per game while the Falcons are scoring just 18.1.
For the Falcons, it’s a real bad matchup on paper.
The Bucs are looking to build off an impressive road performance - something that hasn’t come often this year - led by running back Leonard Fournette who had 100 rushing yards and four total touchdowns.
It was not a banner game for the duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, though, as they combined for seven receptions and just forty yards against Indianapolis. Against the Falcons, Mike Evans has done some of his best work, including a big game in week two where he finished with five receptions for 75 yards and two touchdowns. In his fourteen career games against the Falcons, Evans has 74 receptions for 1,137 yards and ten touchdowns. Those are his highest marks against any single opponent throughout his career.
Unfortunately, it does not look like this will be the week that Antonio Brown returns. His injury appears to be more severe than originally thought and he’s likely out at least two more weeks - which would mark his potential return against the New Orleans Saints in prime time on a night the Bucs could potentially clinch the NFC South for the first time since 2007.
The other big game came from another Mike when safety Mike Edwards returned two interceptions in the fourth quarter for touchdowns, putting the game well out of reach for Atlanta who was trailing by just three points after three quarters.
That brings us, of course, to Tom Brady. The Atlanta Falcons remain one of just five teams that Brady has never lost to. The others are the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There will be 28-3 jokes aplenty as the greatest Super Bowl comeback in history is something that Falcons fans will never get over while Falcons haters won’t ever let them forget. In his eight career games against Atlanta, Brady has 2,507 passing yards with 22 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Buccaneers are eleven point road favorites and the game has an over/under of 50.5. The Falcons are riding a six game losing streak in their own stadium while the Bucs have failed to cover the spread in six of their last seven games as road favorites. The Buccaneers have won four of the last five meetings and three in a row. Tampa Bay has also been favored in three of those five games and won the last two at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The game is scheduled for a 1:00 p.m. kickoff and will be broadcast on FOX. Kenny Albert and Jonathan Vilma will be on the call.