This one’s going to be a lot simpler than most of my one reason to be confident, one reason to be nervous writeups. The reasons for that are simple: There are many reasons to feel confident, and only one real one to not feel confident. This is, on paper and likely on the field, the simplest and easiest matchup left to Atlanta.
It’s also a critically important one. The Falcons need to get their ninth win to stay ahead of the pack and potentially allow them to absorb one loss in their final two games against the Panthers and Saints, both difficult matchups. Given the motivation, the obvious superiority of this Falcons team, and the fact that the Bucs will be without Gerald McCoy, it’s hard not to feel confident.
Here’s our traditional reasons to feel confident and worried.
One reason to feel confident: The matchup itself
The Falcons have, in my humble opinion:
- The better quarterback
- The better starting running back
- The better receiving corps
- The better offensive line
- The better defensive line
- The better linebackers corps
- The better secondary
- The better special teams unit
That feels very stark when you write it out, and it it pretty stark. Some of these matchups are quite close, but the Falcons just have a superior team, and they have the advantage of the better coaching staff. Tampa Bay is a preseason darling every single season, and I even fell for the hype a bit this year. They just never seem to put it together, though, and Winston has not become the elite franchise quarterback many expected him to. With a house cleaning coming this offseason, maybe 2018 will be the year they turn the corner, but I have my doubts.
The upshot is that while Tampa Bay has plenty to prove and is at home, they’re fighting one hell of an uphill battle against Atlanta, and again against New Orleans and Carolina after this. It’s all pride for the Bucs at this point.
One reason to feel nervous: The letdown game
If this matchup is so lopsided, then why would you worry? Because these Falcons have shown themselves to be susceptible to letdowns, of course.
The Falcons played the Vikings tough but ultimately struggled mightily on offense in a loss just two weeks. They barely beat the Saints in a game where Matt Ryan tossed three picks and New Orleans lost a half dozen players to injury. And earlier this year, of course, they dropped games they should have dominated against the Bills and (especially) the Dolphins. You just never know if both sides of the ball are going to show up in a given game, a function of the Falcons being the Falcons and breaking in new coordinators this year.
So we’ll certainly be wary for a game where the Falcons start and/or end slow, and where the Bucs fight hard enough and well enough to stay in it until late. That could lead to a bad outcome, and the Falcons cannot afford a loss here.