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Bird’s Eye View: How Atlanta’s remaining opponents played in Week 13

The stretch run is off to a good start, and another NFC South victory would be huge for Atlanta’s playoff chances

Welcome back to Bird’s Eye View!

The Falcons are back at home after one of the uglier road wins that you’ll likely see this season, but, hey, the result is all that matters. In Atlanta, the team will find friendlier, indoor confines, and they’ve got a division matchup to look forward to.

In Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Falcons are 4-2. Even better, they are 3-0 in the division and already own a 16-13 win against the Buccaneers. Their stretch run is off to a good start and another NFC South victory would be huge for Atlanta’s playoff chances.

A brief refresher for those who may be reading this piece for the first time: This exercise is meant to provide a quick synopsis of how each team did the previous week. I’ll highlight a standout player from each side of the ball, and for the two teams next on Atlanta’s schedule, I’ll include a potential x-factor player for the upcoming matchup.

Here’s how the Falcons’ remaining opponents looked in Week 13:

Week 14 – vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7)

Last three games:

- Week 11: Loss at San Francisco (27-14)

- Week 12: Loss at Indianapolis (27-20)

- Week 13: Win vs Carolina (21-18)

Tweet-length summary of Buccaneers in Week 13:

The Bucs are a plucky team, but they are too much of a one-trick pony on both sides of the ball. Mike Evans is absolutely sensational, but he and Rachaad White are the entire offense. And a good run defense doesn’t matter when teams can throw on Tampa Bay like this.

Best offensive player in Week 13: WR Mike Evans

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Every single week Evans is doing things that only the very best players on the planet can do. Against a pretty good Panthers secondary, Evans caught seven passes for 162 yards and a touchdown. Evans surpassed 1,000 yards on Sunday, becoming the first player in NFL history to accomplish that feat in each of his first 10 seasons. He’s the closest thing to a Julio Jones type gamechanger in the NFC South at this point.

Best defensive player in Week 13: S Antoine Winfield Jr.

See above about the lather, rinse, repeat part. Winfield has been the defense’s Evans this season, getting it done in so many different ways. Against Carolina, he led the team with eight tackles, registered a sack and had the team’s only interception. Winfield is a tremendous talent, and he’s good for about three huge plays a game.

Team stat to know: The Buccaneers rank sixth with a turnover margin of plus-5 this season.

X-factor for the Bucs in Week 14: DT Vita Vea

The Falcons could be down two starting linemen this week. Kaleb McGary left Sunday’s win with a knee injury and has yet to practice this week, while Drew Dalman was held out of practice to start the week with an ankle injury. It’s Dalman who might be the bigger concern, especially with Vea on the slate this week.

Vea has six sacks this season and is one of the best interior run defenders in the league. His presence could have a ripple effect on the edges if the Falcons are forced to focus on the interior.

Week 15 – at Carolina Panthers (1-11)

Last three games:

- Week 11: Loss vs Dallas (33-10)

- Week 12: Loss at Tennessee (17-10)

- Week 13: Loss at Tampa Bay 21-18

Tweet-length summary of Panthers in Week 13:

Best offensive player in Week 13: RB Chuba Hubbard

The Panthers ran 11 more plays than the Buccaneers, which meant Hubbard had quite the workload. He responded very well, carrying the ball 25 times for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Hubbard picked up six of Carolina’s 15 first downs, and he did so against a Top 10 run defense.

Best defensive player in Week 13: DT Derrick Brown

Brown had seven total pressures against Baker Mayfield to go along with four tackles. He consistently pushed the pocket from the middle and was a reliable deterrent against the run. Brown has 33 stops in run defense this season, which is more than any other interior defender.

Team stat to know: Carolina has the worst EPA (expected points added) per play allowed on run plays this season by a wide margin.

X-factor for the Panthers in Week 14: CB Jaycee Horn

Horn played 19 snaps in Week 1 against the Falcons before leaving with a hamstring injury that sidelined him for 11 weeks until he returned to the field on Sunday against Tampa Bay. One of the league’s best young cornerbacks, Horn was impressive against the Buccaneers and finished with the second-highest PFF grade for the Panthers defenders in the game.

Week 16 – vs Indianapolis Colts (7-5)

Last three games:

- Week 11: Bye

- Week 12: Win vs Tampa Bay (27-20)

- Week 13: Win at Tennessee (31-28)

Tweet-length summary of Colts in Week 13:

Indianapolis is maybe the scrappiest team in the league this season, and the Colts rode special teams to a victory in a very tight game against the Titans. Matt Gay kicked four field goals, Indianapolis returned a blocked punt for a touchdown, and both Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce had big games.

Best offensive player in Week 13: WR Michael Pittman

Pittman was targeted 16 times in this game and has clearly emerged as Gardner Minshew’s favorite target. He caught 11 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown, and although none of his catches went longer than 14 yards, he was the drumbeat for Indy’s passing game. He now has surpassed 100 yards in back-to-back games.

Best defensive player in Week 13: DE Kwity Paye

Paye was awesome as a pass rusher for the Colts in this game. He finished with two strip-sacks to go along with four tackles. Indy’s pass rush has been strong this season, and the team has high hopes for Paye.

Team stat to know: The Colts average 25 points per game, which ranks eighth in the NFL.

Week 17 – at Chicago Bears (4-8)

Last three games:

- Week 11: Loss at Detroit (31-26)

- Week 12: Win at Minnesota (12-10)

- Week 13: Bye

Tweet-length summary of Bears in Week 12:

Best offensive player in Week 12: WR DJ Moore

Now that Justin Fields is back under center, Moore has picked right back up as the dominant receiver he is. He caught 11 passes for 114 yards and gave the Vikings’ secondary headaches all night long. On the season, Moore has 70 catches for 1,003 yards and six touchdowns.

Best defensive player in Week 12: CB Jaylon Johnson

How good has Johnson been this season? He had another outstanding game against a pretty potent Vikings passing attack. Johnson had a pair of pass breakups and a really instinctual interception to start the second half. He’s dropped a few more interceptions this season (including one Monday night) but he’s playing like a Pro Bowler.

Team stat to know: Chicago’s defense ranks dead last in red-zone defense, allowing a touchdown 73.5 percent of the time.

Week 18 – New Orleans Saints (5-7)

Last three games:

- Week 11: Bye

- Week 12: Loss at Atlanta (24-15)

- Week 13: Loss vs Detroit (33-28)

Tweet-length summary of Saints in Week 13:

Best offensive player in Week 13: WR Chris Olave

Derek Carr wasn’t nearly half as bad as Saints fans are making him out to be, and he was almost the choice here, but Olave continues to put on a clinic week in and week out. He finished this game with 119 yards on five catches, an average of nearly 24 yards per reception. Olave has 890 yards on the season, which ranks 13th among receivers.

Best defensive player in Week 13: LB Nephi Sewell

The second-year linebacker saw the most action of his career against Detroit, and he played very well. He was PFF’s highest-graded defender for the Saints on Sunday, and he also tied for the team lead with eight tackles. New Orleans’ defense is already old and not getting any younger, so Sewell’s performance is something that the team should make note of and want to build upon.

Team stat to know: New Orleans averages 3.7 passing yards per play, which ranks 28th in the NFL.