Falcons 28, Bucs 20
I love this team. Warts and all. While many have taken to calling for the benching of Ryan or demanding that Kyle Shanahan be thrown to the wolves, I truly believe that this team can still turn this around. Am I setting myself up for more heartache? Possibly, but I'm choosing to believe in a QB who has shown us so much over 7 seasons. I'm choosing to believe that - despite the 4 game slide - the best is yet to come. I may be a fool. I may be delusional. None of that changes the fact that I'm going to believe in this team - my team - no matter what the recent losses may say.
Falcons 17, Bucs 16
Hold onto your seats Falcons fans, because the 2015 Atlanta Falcons playoffs start this week. Like Dave, I have a strangely good feeling about this game. The Bucs lost a stinker to the Colts last week and I do think we're still a better team than the Bucs. If the Falcons don't turn the ball over, they might win by two or more scores. This is the first of several make or break games for the team, and if they have any hope of winning, they'd better hope all the trade secrets were spilled in that players-only meeting. A loss here safely rules out any more victory guarantees from me in 2015.
Falcons 27, Buccaneers 21
I have a weirdly good feeling about this game that probably isn't justified, but let's roll with it. The Falcons barely lost the first time out, they're welcoming back Devonta Freeman, and desperation in a divisional game can make a team do odd and sometimes wonderful things. Call it a gut feeling, but the Falcons win this one.
Falcons 13, Bucs 24
Until this team can prove otherwise, I’m predicting them to lose just about every week. The Vikings boast one of the league’s better defenses, but the fact that they only scored three points in the first 3.5 quarters of a game AT HOME is terribly disheartening. Realistically, they should win in Tampa, but the same was thought with San Francisco and Indy. Atlanta’s season is freefalling, but if they can salvage a winning season out of these last few games, that’s a success in my book.
Prove me wrong, Atlanta. Please.
Falcons 20, Bucs 14
The Bucs came away with a 23-20 overtime win in Atlanta back in Week 8, and now it’s time for the Falcons to return the favor. Things are getting desperate for this team; with a 6-5 record, they’re currently the seventh seed in the conference. The offense will receive a boost with the return of Devonta Freeman, and Devin Hester’s debut means good things for the return game. Besides, there’s no way the Falcons lose five in a row, right? Right?
Falcons 26, Bucs 23
With the pressure mounting on Matt Ryan, he couldn't ask for a better matchup. Tampa Bay's defensive line is decimated. Ryan has been productive against them over the past five seasons. Unlike Mike Person is botching snaps, the embattled quarterback has always delivered against Tampa Bay. The return of Devonta Freeman and Devin Hester brings two explosive elements to a bland offense. Tampa Bay poses plenty of threats offensively, which will make this a close game. In a playoff eliminator, the veteran quarterback and more talented team will prevail. Winning the turnover battle would be essential. Atlanta has lost the turnover battle in seven of their last eight games. They can't continue this embarrassing streak.
Falcons 35, Buccaneers 21
The Falcons need redemption after their first meeting with the Buccaneers went awry due to turnovers and the Falcons shooting themselves in the foot. If they can minimize turnovers this week, the Falcons should be able to take advantage of Gerald McCoy and Jacquies Smith not being healthy in the run game.
The Buccaneers can't set the edge as effectively without those two, and it should really bring balance to the Falcons offense by being able to attack the Buccaneers weakened defensive line. Once the run game is set, they should pass it much easier due to wearing out the talented pass rushers on that line in the run game.
Atlanta's defense just needs to show up like it has all season, and the Falcons should be able to win the game. But again, it will all come down to turnovers. Since I'm an optimist, I'm going to say that the turnovers are gone, and the Falcons win this one.
Falcons 17, Buccaneers 23
The Falcons have been struggling. Their defense is good enough to stay competitive in most games, but their offense is Devonta Freeman and a shaky, conservative passing offense. While Tampa is dealing with some major defensive injuries, Atlanta has failed to capitalize such positive match-ups for nearly two months. The Falcons may still get it together, but I have been expecting that turnaround nearly every week for over a month. Does it happen this week? Maybe. But this team feels like it is dysfunctional as opposed to about to surge back to form. The Falcons will unlikely get out to a big lead, allowing Tampa to use their preferred game plan and easily take this win.