This is a divisional game, which means the Falcons can certainly win it and that anything can happen. It’s that latter possibility that makes me a little nervous, as you’ll note below.
The bottom line is that for the first time all season, the things to feel confident about greatly outweigh my worries for this one. That’s a nice feeling, even if it’s one I don’t expect to last.
Feel confident about that Buccaneers pass defense
The Buccaneers have a nightmarishly bad secondary, if you’re a Bucs fans. If you’re a fan of the team like the Falcons, it’s more like a dream.
Julio Jones destroys this secondary on a regular basis. Calvin Ridley broke out last week and should continue to fare well this week without Austin Hooper on the field. The Falcons simply have more than enough weapons to take advantage of the mismatch here, and given that they’re likely to struggle to run, they should be airing it out all day.
I’ve predicted the Falcons will score 31 because the offense really hasn’t been efficient in terms of scoring all year, but this might be the game where they blow by that number.
One reason to worry: Jameis Winston
Winston’s flaws are legion and well known at this point. He throws far too many picks (107 touchdowns versus 76 interceptions and counting in his career), is sloppy with the football, and tends to cancel out his legitimately impressive games with turnovers.
Except against the Falcons. Winston’s splits against Atlanta are comically good, especially compared to how he fares against literally every other opponent. Against the Saints he’s got 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in nine games, against the Panthers he’s got 9 touchdowns and 14 picks in nine games, and against the Falcons he has 20 touchdowns against just 5 interceptions in just seven games. Some players just have another team’s number, and Winston has Atlanta’s in the worst way.
The way the secondary and the defense overall have been playing the last two weeks, they should be able to bring the worst out of Winston. But you have to wonder, after these past few years of turning Winston into one of the league’s best quarterbacks on a given Sunday, whether they can actually hold him in check this time.