There are two strains of Falcons fans operating this late in the year, three if you count the ones who simply have stopped watching and are waiting until next year. There are the fans who want to see wins or at least competitive games every single week, no matter what, and there are the fans who are eager to wrap this thing up and get the best possible draft pick.
I believe Abraham Lincoln once said “know your audience, Falcons blogger,” so I’ve prepared this weekly feature from the perspective of each of those two different groups. Let’s go.
Feel confident Atlanta will come ready to play
The Falcons shut out the Buccaneers in the first half two weeks ago and impressively shut down the Chiefs a week ago on the road. Unless they’ve all given up on the year, there’s little question they’ll come into this game ready to play and capable of keeping this one close, even with injuries taking a big bite out of their gameday roster.
This team is many things, but aside from two notably aggravating games against the Saints, they have rarely been out of games. I don’t expect this Bucs game to be any exception, and if they’re close late they can absolutely steal one.
Worry that the Bucs are motivated
If you wanted the Falcons to steal one on the road, you were probably hoping Tampa Bay wouldn’t have a lot to play for. Unfortunately, they have already announced they’ll be playing starters and are gunning for playoff positioning, meaning they’re unlikely to let their foot off the gas unless Atlanta is blowing them out and/or they’re blowing out the Falcons. The former is more likely than the latter, I firmly believe, but Tampa Bay has something to play for and put on a fireworks show the last time these two teams met, winning in the second half.
Feel confident that the Falcons are banged up and that makes things difficult
Atlanta will go out into the season finale down Alex Mack, Julio Jones, Brandon Powell, Charles Harris, and Darqueze Dennard, meaning their offensive line will be jumbled, the receiving corps will once again be down one if its best players, and a couple of useful defenders will be gone. That all adds up in a game that may well become a shootout again, given that the Bucs were one of the few teams to truly roll over the Falcons defense this year and the offense once again petered out for Atlanta.
A fully healthy Falcons team is capable of knocking off the Bucs. It’s an open question whether one with injuries against a motivated squad can get the job done.
Worry that the Bucs are also banged up
The Bucs just put Devin White and Shaq Barrett on the reserve/COVID-19 list, which means two of the team’s most dominant defenders are on the shelf. That makes life much easier for Atlanta’s sometimes balky offense, which could in turn translate to enough points to put up the win on Sunday.