This is getting tougher and tougher each week. Writing about a defense that really has no hope of performing better unless they get a lot better really quickly. Unfortunately, it looks like this unit is stuck here and the improvements we see from here on will be marginal.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off of a bye week after the Chicago Bears beat them 48-10, and they hope to get back to their 27+ points per game magic this week. Lucky for them, they play the Falcons defense which is giving up just over 30 points a game.
Can Atlanta keep the Bucs offense down for one more week? Let’s take a look.
In the trenches
There is very little desirable play along either units’ line of scrimmage. For Atlanta, struggles rushing the quarterback and getting running backs to the ground have plagued this group all season long. In Tampa, the league’s worst rushing defense and questions at quarterback linger over an incredibly hot start to the season.
Atlanta is incredibly depleted and has struggled mightily thus far this season, but I am going to put some faith in Takkarist McKinley and Vic Beasley getting to a familiar face in Jameis Winston. I don’t think it happens routinely but I do think it happens enough to make him uncomfortable. Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson have been solid in pass protection so far but I think Takk comes out a little pissed off after the performance last week.
In terms of running the ball, this is truly the battle of the below-average. Tampa will be able to have more success than they are used to on the ground because, well—Falcons. With Grady Jarrett still out due to his sprained ankle, the middle of the defense is vulnerable and while the Bucs’ interior offensive line has kind of sucked this season, Atlanta has a knack for helping teams get back on track.
Bottom line, each team will perform better than they expect in one area or another, but neither will have an all-around solid performance.
Typically, I feel better about the Falcons matchups in the back end of the defense than I do up front, however, I think this group of wideouts and tight ends may be trouble for the Atlanta secondary. Mike Evans always gives Desmond Trufant all that he can handle and I think Desean Jackson is explosive enough to hurt Robert Alford deep a time or two.
This is really going to come down to whether or not the Falcons can force the Bucs into some third-and-longs and force Winston to throw under some semblance of pressure. If Atlanta gets beat deep or gets caught in third-and-short situations, they will struggle against the skill players.
The Bucs don’t have any game-breakers at running back or tight end but it doesn’t take that much to impact a game against the Falcons defense. Peyton Barber and Cameron Brate are plenty capable of giving the Falcons linebackers and safeties issues—especially if they are on an island with little help.
Advantage: Tampa Bay
I wish I had more faith in this group and that they were playing better, however it is pretty clear that we are going to have to watch this group struggle week after week this season. There is potential for the Falcons to show flashes—like I expect Takk and Vic to do this week—but there is very little hope in the Atlanta defense truly stopping Jameis and the rest of the Bucs’ offense.
Advantage: Tampa Bay
Let’s hope the offense can do their job.