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What to know about Falcons - Buccaneers in Week 17

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Atlanta’s final game may not mean much, but it should be a lively one.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The final game of the 2019 season awaits. Let’s talk Falcons - Buccaneers!

Falcons - Buccaneers comparison

Falcons - Buccaneers Comparison

Team Record Points For Yardage For Passing Yards Rushing Yards Points Against Yardage Against Passing Yards Against Rushing Yardage Against Turnovers Created Turnovers Allowed
Team Record Points For Yardage For Passing Yards Rushing Yards Points Against Yardage Against Passing Yards Against Rushing Yardage Against Turnovers Created Turnovers Allowed
Falcons 6-9 13 5 3 30 22 19 21 15 21 22
Buccaneers 7-8 3 3 1 25 30 15 29 1 5 32

The Falcons have gotten better across the board since the last time these two teams played. The Bucs, meanwhile, are basically the same team.

Tampa Bay is an absolutely fascinating group. They have the most productive passing offense in the league, they’ve managed to make up for their lackluster pass defense with gobs of turnovers, and they’ve got one of the best run defenses in the league. That should be enough to put them in contention for a playoff spot, and yet they could end the year tied with the Falcons, a team that has underachieved mightily all season.

The key to understand that lies in Winston himself. He’s a prolific passer with some great receivers, but he also has thrown the most interceptions in the NFL by a comfortable margin. The Bucs tend to get into shootouts their defense can’t win, and that problem is compounded by Winston tending to put that side of the ball on the field for longer with his constant stream of turnovers. The Buccaneers appear likely to bring Winston back next year, but they should probably think about investing significantly on defense if they’re gonna do that.

The Falcons are the Falcons. They’re a better team now, especially on defense, but I’m not sure how they’ll fare against Winston and his weird anti-Atlanta magic.

How the Buccaneers have changed since the last time

Mostly they’ve seen injuries pile up. They’ll play this game with no Mike Evans or Chris Godwin, depriving them not only of their two best receivers but two of the better receivers in the NFC. Jameis Winston will instead need to feed Breshad Perriman and three Madden Create-A-Players with identical hairlines.

That’s the real limiting factor for the Buccaneers, who otherwise bring a team that embarrassed the Falcons at home a little while ago. I’d be worried about that outcome again given the Tampa Bay pass rush and Winston, but at least the Falcons defense and offensive line have improved since the last meeting.

What you need to know

We have no idea what a win or a loss means here besides draft position and pride.

On the draft position piece, I believe the Falcons can lose and get all the way back into the top ten, but if they win they can go as high as #18. Again, that’s disappointing for those who wanted Chase Young (read: everyone), but the Falcons have drafted quality players in the middle of the first round before. Either way, we have to live with it and so does the front office.

Pride-wise, finishing the season 6-2 after starting 1-7 would undoubtedly mean a lot to everyone in the building. I don’t really want to hear about how they’ve proved all the doubters wrong—that’s true to an extent, but the season was lost before they got it going, so not really—but for everyone fighting for new contracts or their jobs or just the recognition that this isn’t a bad football team, it’s important. I fully acknowledge and understand that.

Beyond that, who knows? Knocking off a depleted Tampa Bay squad really shouldn’t change Arthur Blank’s mind about this front office or this coaching staff, and it would be genuinely concerning if it did. Similarly, a loss to the Bucs would be disappointing but shouldn’t cause Blank to veer from keeping Quinn (if indeed that’s what he’s thinking) to firing him. It’s a final, largely meaningless road game for both teams, and should do little to tip the scales regardless of the outcome.

As for the game itself, I expect a bit of a shootout. Jameis WInston traditionally kills the Falcons—he’s at 23 touchdowns and 7 interceptions for his career against them, by a wide margin his best mark against any team—and no amount of poor receiving options is going to entirely dull that. Atlanta, meanwhile, should be able to pass just fine against an improving but not elite Tampa Bay secondary even with Calvin Ridley on the shelf. If all we get out of this is an entertaining final Sunday of the year, that’s just fine.