When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday afternoon they’ll be looking to defeat their NFC South Division rival for the fourth time in five tries, and even the franchise series at 28 wins each.
More importantly, the Bucs are trying to get their season off to a 2-0 start, and the Falcons are looking to avoid an 0-2 beginning to their 2021 season.
Helping Atlanta in their efforts are some usual cast members. Matt Ryan plays quarterback, Calvin Ridley at wide receiver, and Deion Jones at linebacker. These are all guys Bucs fans have seen before, and know what to expect to a certain extent.
But then there are guys we haven’t seen in this context before. Running back Mike Davis, for example, is in his first season with the Falcons after playing for the Carolina Panthers in 2020 and part of 2019.
Another new running back in Atlanta got a surprising amount of work in Week 1, and could be in for a big workload in Week 2, as the Falcons look to be the first team to knock off the Buccaneers since just after Thanksgiving in 2020.
His name is Cordarelle Patterson, and you’ve probably heard of him. If you haven’t, he entered the league in 2013 with the Minnesota Vikings and was a Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro in his rookie season as a return specialist.
Patterson earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods again in 2016, 19, and 20 as well. The last two came as a member of the Chicago Bears with stops with the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots coming in-between.
In 2021, he landed with the Falcons, and in game one he had two catches for 13 yards, seven carries for 54 yards, and one kickoff return for 25 yards.
Quite the impact for a team that didn’t accomplish much outside of its first two drives of the game.
I asked Aaron Freeman of the Locked On Falcons Podcast about the impact Patterson might have on the game this week.
“...we got to see Cordarelle Patterson run pretty efficiently behind (the) Falcons offensive line, particularly in those early drives,” Freeman told me. “...he is a playmaking threat, a game-breaker...(he) could be the ‘X-Factor’ to keep an eye on in this Sunday match-up.”
Tampa Bay is expected to win big, entering the weekend as 12.5 point favorites over the Falcons.
Whether or not the Buccaneers win, and cover the spread, could be impacted significantly by a new running back in Atlanta. Just not the one we expected entering the season.