It will be the Atlanta Falcons squaring off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday. Another division rival on the schedule means another chance to adavance further ahead in the NFC South. On paper, Sunday's game is between two evenly matched foes. Each team has earned three wins on the season and both are coming off of a losing effort. The game, however, might not be so balanced. Here are some things that could, should, and will play out in week seven—
This game could be a blowout.
Both the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have three wins on the season. Tampa Bay has only lost twice, to two teams that are regarded as serious NFC contenders. Not many football fans would file the Atlanta Falcons away as contenders. Admittedly, the Buccaneers may also have a difficult time finding themselves in that category. A key difference between the two is while both teams have three victories, quality of opponents adds perspective. The Falcons are coming off a 24-16 loss to the Washington Commanders. Washington has three losses this season. The team’s who have defeated Tampa have a cumulative total of two.
The Buccaneers have handed defeat to all of their 2023 opponents who aren't projected for a deep playoff run. Atlanta may be in the running for the NFC South crown but the ceiling for the 2023 Falcons is not much higher than that. Tampa is the better team and if they play to their potential, the Bucs could win this game going away. A big victory, in their second divisional game of the season, can be a major component in a Tampa Bay playoff push.
The Buccaneers should make Desmond Ridder look bad.
Much like the Tampa Bay Bucs, Atlanta was a team who also needed to investigate quarterback options during the offseason. The difference is the Falcons still have the same starter they ended with last year. 2022 third-rounder Desmond Ridder, has had a few moments this season but has mostly played like a 2022 third-round pick. The Falcons passer has thrown six touchdowns to go with six interceptions. He has had two separate games with a 111 passer rating, but those have come alongside four games of a rating beneath an 80. Ridder’s passing statistics, comparable to his peers, have not been glamorous. Atlanta ranks in the bottom-half of the league in most relevant passing categories. Their average of 212 passing yards per game ranks ranks 18th. With under 6.5 yards per pass they rank 20th and the Falcons are also a bottom-10 offense in sack percentage.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense did not perform well last week against Jared Goff. Any other quarterback the Bucs have faced, in 2023, has not fared as well. Derek Carr was held to less than 130 yards and couldn’t find the endzone. Kirk Cousins did produce two touchdowns but at the expense of a critical interception. Both, Jalen Hurts and Justin Fields, left Tampa with only one touchdown pass and two interceptions thrown. Todd Bowles’ defense is fresh off a bad game, and will be eager to right last week’s wrong. Desmond Ridder should have a difficult day.
Tampa NEEDS to tackle.
For all the passing statistics that Desmond Ridder and the Atlanta Falcons’ offense ranks low in they do have some potential to gouge Tampa with the run. The Buccaneers held up well versus the run last week, although it was at the of cost qaulity pass defense. The Falcons will do their best to test Tampa’s run defense again and the Buccaneers will need to respond.
Currently, Atlanta averages the seventh most rush attempts per game (29.7). They are also top 10 in rushing yards per game. Those stats can be misleading because they work in tandem and Atlanta’s 4.0 average yards per rush is not nearly as impressive— it’s good for 18th best in the NFL. What those stats do say, is Atlanta’s running backs are coming. Arthur Smith likes to run the football and is willing to have an offense that is almost operating at 50/50 split. The Buccaneers will need to be prepared for the attempts in the run game to be high and be ready to make tackles. If Baker Mayfield and the Bucs’ offense struggle in this game, missed tackles that turn two-yard runs into six-yard runs and eight-runs into 15-yard gains could be the difference. The MVP’s of this game need to be Tampa Bay’s linebackers and Antoine Winfield Jr.
Do you agree with our list? Do you disagree? What are some things you think could, should, and will happen this week against the Falcons?
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