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Intriguing players to watch in Falcons vs. Bucs

It will be a big day for some of Atlanta’s brightest lights.

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Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett celebrates a sack vs the New Orleans Saints in Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons seek a meaningful win against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team this Sunday.

One of its many meanings would be pushing the team to a 3-2 record, the first time the Falcons have sported a winning record in five seasons. With that record, the Falcons will also be in first place in the NFC South. More importantly, it will also represent the team’s first win against a Tom Brady-led team, as the latter sports a 10-0 career record against Atlanta.

If the Falcons are going to pull this off, it will take a complete team effort from the entire roster. But I will endeavor to limit myself to naming just five Falcons who will be among the most intriguing ones.

Drake London

With Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts out of the lineup for Sunday, the bulk of the team’s passing attack will lean on their rookie receiver. That won’t be too much of a change for the offense from the first month of the season, since the team’s 2022 first-round pick already leads the team in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns.

But repeating that success against the Bucs won’t be easy. According to Football Outsiders, Tampa Bay has only given up 45.5 yards per game against No. 1 receivers, which is the third-lowest total in the NFL. London will need to have a breakout game against a defense that doesn’t often allow them if the Falcons' passing attack is going to get going on Sunday.

Anthony Firkser

Joining London in the need to step up in Pitts’ absence is the player most likely to replace him at tight end. The Falcons’ game plan will likely revolve around the running game, which will often feature tight end Parker Hesse’s superior blocking skills. But Hesse is not the threat as a pass-catcher that Firkser can be.

Now, that has yet to be seen thus far this year, with Firkser only having two catches in limited snaps through four games. His production will need to spike on Sunday in order to take pressure off London to carry the entire passing offense.

Abdullah Anderson

The next Falcon worth mentioning is Anderson, who is another player that is likely replacing a starter this weekend. With the surprise release of nose tackle Anthony Rush, Anderson is likely to be the team’s choice to step into the vacant starting spot.

Anderson has been solid in limited action as a rotational player, and he’ll need to keep that going with expanded reps as a starter. What Anderson likely brings to the table over Rush is more juice as a pass-rusher, which will be instrumental in slowing down Brady and a potent Bucs’ passing game.

Grady Jarrett

Yet the player that will likely be most pivotal to the Falcons’ pass-rushing success on Sunday will be none other than their defensive leader in Jarrett. The Bucs' offensive line has been one of the best in the league the past few years, but now they are sporting vulnerabilities up front due to a rookie starter at left guard and an inexperienced center.

Fortunately for the Falcons, Jarrett often lines up against those very spots. If the Falcons are finally going to break Brady, it will likely hinge on a big day from Jarrett.

A.J. Terrell

Terrell has been excellent for the Falcons the past two games, shadowing the opposing team’s top receivers D.K. Metcalf and Amari Cooper and keeping them mostly quiet and contained. But going for the hat trick against Mike Evans this weekend will be a tall order.

This won’t be the first time that Terrell has been tasked with shadowing Evans in his career, as he did so during his rookie season back in 2020. But he struggled in that Week 15 game, allowing nine catches for 147 yards according to Pro Football Focus. That in turn prompted the Falcons to end a three-game experiment of asking Terrell to shadow, in large part due to the hurting that Evans put on him in that game.

Sticking to the theme of the Falcons getting revenge against Brady, this will also be a revenge game for Terrell against Evans to show that he’s come a long way from those early green days as a rookie.

Are there other Falcons that intrigue you in this Bucs matchup?