Over the last several years, the Falcons and Bucs have had some memorable games. Atlanta had a tendency to make Jameis Winston look elite but they’d also find a way to win the game regardless. With Tom Brady in Florida now, can Atlanta continue their success against the Bucs? Let’s take a look.
In the trenches
I’ve said it a million times in this series and it still holds true. This defensive front is Grady Jarrett and a bunch of other guys. Guys like Steven Means and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner have flashed at times, which is more than we can say for the dramatically overpaid Dante Fowler Jr. They’re not the worst in the league at pressuring the QB, but they aren’t good either. Familiar story, different year.
The Bucs, on the other hand, have a very good offensive line. Tackles Donovan Smith and Tristan Wirfs are excellent bookends. Ali Marpet is legitimately one of the top guards in the league and Alex Cappa gets the job done in pass blocking. Center Ryan Jensen may be the only slightly weak link on this unit, but not enough so to think they’ll fold under pressure.
Until further notice, just assume the Falcons lose this matchup.
The skill positions
There are some legitimately good players on the back end of the Falcons defense. A.J. Terrell is a very promising rookie as is Mykal Walker at linebacker. Deion Jones has improved dramatically over the last few games as has Keanu Neal. Foye Oluokun continues to play well, particularly in his ability to cause turnovers. Other than these guys, though, there are some concerns. Corner depth is lacking even if Isaiah Oliver has improved by moving into nickel sets instead of being a starter. Sharrod Neasman replaces an injured Ricardo Allen, though this may not be a substantial downgrade. This is a decent unit overall, but they still have some flaws.
Tom Brady, despite his age, is still playing well. His 11 interceptions is high by his standards, but with nearly 3500 passing yards and 30 touchdowns, it seems like a blip. The receiving duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin may be one of the best in the league. Having Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate as receiving tight ends also seems a bit unfair. Adding Antonio Brown to the mix makes this offense a tiger, at least on paper. Running back Ronald Jones is having a great year with 900 yards rushing so far and a healthy 5.0 yards per carry. Yikes.
The Bucs are a very dangerous offense and Atlanta just has too many holes to match up.
I’ve actually been impressed with the play of the Falcons defense in recent weeks. There is reason to think a new coach can come in and rebuild with many of these young players in tow. Right now, though, they’re just not good enough to match up with an offense this loaded with talent.