Falcons 34 - Bucs 20
Division games always have the potential to be weird, but the Bucs are in a pretty tough spot. They'll be without Jameis Winston, starting G Evan Smith, and starting DE Robert Ayers. The Falcons will still be without Freeman, but we've seen that Coleman can carry the load adequately in his absence. This is a game that the Falcons should control from start to finish. Tampa has little to no running game and a mediocre OL, which should allow Atlanta to focus on shutting down Ryan Fitzpatrick. A win at home this week essentially knocks the Bucs out of playoff contention and lifts the Falcons to 7-4. With even tougher games coming up on the schedule, the Falcons need to take care of business on Sunday.
Falcons 99 - Bucs 7
I should probably be concerned about Mike Smith’s ability to get his team amped up for one meaningless game in another lost season for the Buccaneers. However, Tampa Bay is seemingly the exact same team regardless of what additions they make. Remember when Twitter was abuzz with concern over covering Desean Jackson? Or how they lucked out with the best tight end in the draft? How can any team compete with the likes of Mike Evans, Jackson, OJ Howard, Doug Martin, and Jameis Winston? As it turns out, you win more often than not if you score more than 15 points. That shouldn’t be too tough against Smith’s defense.
Falcons 31 - Bucs 21
Cautiously optimistic about this one. The Falcons are starting to heat up just in time for the most brutal part of their schedule. If the Falcons finish with 6 losses or fewer, you can bet they’ll be making another deep playoff run because they’ll be as tested as any team headed into the playoffs. Starts this week with what will hopefully be nothing more than a speed bump in the Bucs. Need to take care of business today and move on to the next game.
Falcons 34 - Bucs 19
Every game is crucial from here on out for the Falcons regardless of opponent. The Falcons have to keep pace in the division race and getting a win over the banged-up, inconsistent Buccaneers keeps them in good position in the playoff race. The Bucs will be without starting quarterback Jameis Winston in this one but this is a game where the weaponry on offense for the Falcons must show their effectiveness. The Bucs are 31st in passing yards allowed and have given up 400 or more total yards in six games this season. Atlanta is on a roll and against a team they are clearly better than, the Falcons need to still approach this with a playoff-type mentality.
Falcons 35 - Bucs 24
One of those things we haven’t really talked about is how the Buccaneers put 30 points on the Dolphins last week (who do not have a bad defense in the slightest). Ryan Fitzpatrick is a sneakily-good QB when called up for a few games from his back-up spot (the Bucs are 2-0 with him under center), so don’t expect a Dirty Bird hoedown, even with the game within Atlanta city limits. Those Floridian pirates have one of the better passing attacks in the NFL no matter who is behind center, and it’ll be on Atlanta’s defense to get consistent pressure and watch Mike Evans like a hawk (er, falcon). Though, with Tampa Bay’s defense virtually without a pass rush and a bit nicked up, the offense should continue stacking on its momentum. A sound win would be confirmation enough this team is primed for a playoff push. A sloppy win, or *shudders* a loss, would indicate they’re not as close as hoped.
Falcons 34 - Bucs 23
The Buccaneers are not as bad as they have looked at times this year, but we’re still talking about a team that is not particularly well-coached, is presided over by a general manager who traded up in the second round for a kicker, and features an odd blend of legitimate talents and genuinely mediocre players. There’s no obvious path to greatness here, but they can still play well for long stretches, and I expect they’ll make this one interesting. I also expect that in the end, the talent gap here will become evident, and Atlanta will win by two scores. Let it be so.