Another week, another game, another mix of optimism and brutal pessimism to deal with. This week, against a Buccaneers team long on weapons and short on defense, the reasons to feel confident and worry are pretty obvious ones, as I think you’ll agree. Let’s get to it.
Feel confident about the punchless Tampa Bay pass rush
The Falcons may have trouble with pass rushes all year. Fortunately, this week they draw the Buccaneers, led by Mike “A Pass Rush Is Optional” Smith.
It’s always possible Tampa Bay causes some problems for Atlanta—they have the talent up front to cause at least mild havoc—but we’re all familiar with the unique challenges of a Smitty pass rush, and the Bucs have done virtually nothing this year to erase that stigma. The entire defense is a turnstile right now, with Julio Jones matching up against completely overmatched cornerbacks, but it’s the prospect of Matt Ryan with time in the pocket that makes me think the offense is headed for a big day.
Feel worried about stopping the Buccaneers passing attack
This is the case every week, isn’t it? It takes on special significance this week, however.
In five career games against the Falcons, Jameis Winston is 3-2, but that belies how well he’s played. He’s completed nearly 67% of his passes, which is well above his career average, and has 12 touchdowns compared to just two interceptions. Those twelve touchdowns are double his career high against any other team, and the Falcons genuinely have not had a pass defense this bad in a little while.
That puts a ton of pressure on this pass defense to do something, anything, to hold Winston and a talented passing attack in check. If they’re down Grady Jarrett it’s going to hurt their pass rush, which is going to put extra pressure on a secondary and group of linebackers that haven’t been regularly up to the task this year.
In essence, the Falcons are going to need to buck a three game trend, which is going to require improved, cohesive play we just haven’t seen yet. You could say I’m worried about that, yes.