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Davy Jones’ Locker: Buccaneers at Falcons Q&A with The Falcoholic for Week 18

We dive into the state of the Falcons for this week’s game.

Arizona Cardinals v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in Atlanta this week as they play the Falcons on Sunday. The Bucs improved to 8-8 following their Week 17 win over the Panthers at home.

We fired off some questions regarding the state of Atlanta’s team for Kevin Knight from The Falcoholic to see if he can shed some light on what’s going on with the Falcons heading into Week 18.

1 - Desmond Ridder has been called for by fans throughout the season to let him play. He is getting that shot now with his fourth straight start this weekend. How has his performance been welcomed by coaches and fans alike? What can the Bucs expect out of him on Sunday?

Ridder has been on a slow but steady upward trend since his first start on the road in New Orleans. Finally back at home and against an easier opponent in the Cardinals, Ridder had his best game of the season. He had some pretty impressive throws that didn’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet due to some officiating mistakes, but was generally efficient and much more comfortable in the pocket. In general, Ridder is a much more decisive and crisp passer than Marcus Mariota was. He’s a terrific athlete, but he’s not as comfortable or effective running the ball as Mariota was. I’d expect the Falcons to throw the ball more than they did in their first meeting with Tampa Bay, as Ridder continues to build rapport with his receivers.

2 - The Buccaneers have had an overall good defense this season but have been up and down against the run. Set to face another team with a potentially dangerous running game, how does Atlanta plan to attack Tampa Bay on the ground if Akiem Hicks and Vita Vea do in fact play this Sunday?

Even with Desmond Ridder in the fold, the Falcons will continue to pound the rock as their first priority on offense. Tyler Allgeier has emerged as the starter in a pretty talented RB corps, and he’s just 123 yards from breaking Atlanta’s rookie rushing record. The other half of the equation is the blocking up front: Atlanta’s run blocking has made a total turnaround from 2021. Right tackle Kaleb McGary and right guard Chris Lindstrom have been elite, while Jake Matthews continues to hold down the fort at left tackle. I’d expect 20+ carries from Allgeier and plenty of Cordarrelle Patterson to go along with him.

3 - Eight of Atlanta’s last nine games have been one-score games and have only come away with three wins. Why have the Falcons been able to keep games close all season long but have just six wins on the season?

They’ve certainly benefited from playing some poor offenses late in the year, but ultimately Atlanta’s style of play on both sides of the ball lends itself to close games. The offense is most comfortable grinding out long drives and leaning on the rushing attack, while the defense really struggles on third down and is notorious for allowing long drives. As a result, Atlanta has had the fewest drives on offense of any team. Unfortunately, the Falcons’ luck in one-score games ran out this year, and they’ve fallen just short of victory far too many times. Still, for a roster that some have called the worst in the NFL, six wins and playing competitive football every single week are nothing to scoff at.

4 - It’s fair to say that every team in the NFC South is looking ahead to next season with changes in mind due to how they have all played this season. What has ultimately gone wrong for the Falcons in 2022 that should lead them to making changes for 2023?

I don’t really think anything specifically went wrong for Atlanta. This was always going to be the “cap reset” year, and as a result the Falcons are dealing with an NFL-record $83M in dead cap. That significantly limited the talent on the roster, particularly on the defensive side. Early in the season, this team was overachieving on offense, but things have fallen back to earth. In the end, this team needs major reinforcements on the defensive line and a few more pieces on offense to really be competitive. Thankfully, they’ll have a full complement of draft picks and potentially north of $80M in cap space heading into the 2023 offseason.

5 - Atlanta is currently a 4.5-point favorite via Draftkings Sportsbook. How do you see this game playing out?

It really depends on how many of the Bucs starters play, and for how long. If the starters play for most of the game, I do think the Bucs are likely to win this one. Atlanta’s defense simply can’t defend the pass, and it seems like Tampa Bay has finally got something going there. If the starters are limited, Atlanta could definitely pull this off. They’re playing hard each and every week and will do what they always do: keep it close, and have a shot to win at the end. I’m skeptical that the Bucs starters play the whole game, so I’ll go Falcons 27-24.

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the over/under is currently set to 40.5 for this matchup.