It seems like forever since the Buccaneers had something to celebrate. After two straight losses to playoff hopefuls, Tampa Bay needed a win last Sunday to stay above water in the playoff race. With the Vikings victory in the rear view, the Buccaneers now have their first of two matchups against the division rival Atlanta Falcons.
Here’s How The Falcons Measure Up
Last week, the Falcons had a litany of injuries to deal with. Some of which held some key players out of the game.
- Julio Jones WR (Out) Hamstring. Status TBD
- Ricardo Allen S (Out) Concussion. Status TBD
- James Carpenter OG (Out) Groin. Status TBD
Running Back Todd Gurley returned to the field but in a very limited capacity against the Chargers. Finished the day with 6 carries for 19 yards and 3 targets in the pass game.
- Rush Yards/Gm 25th (98.3) / Pass Yards/Gm 6th (268.9)
- Rush Touchdowns/Gm 19th (0.9) / Pass Touchdowns/Gm 18th (1.5)
- % of Rush Plays Called 22nd (39.43%) / % of Pass Plays Called 11th (60.57%)
Buccaneers fans might recognize this name from recent past. Falcons Offensive Coordinator and ex-Buccaneers Head Coach, Dirk Koetter is calling the plays on the other side of the field this year.
Sure, the offensive profile would incline someone to want to play as much of the game through the air. That’s hard to ignore. That’s not likely to change either come Sunday against the Buccaneers #1 Defense against the run. Especially, if their top rusher, Todd Gurley still isn’t 100%.
Gurley has a well documented history of playing through injury or missing games outright so it wouldn’t be a surprised to see him suit up despite the matchup.
If the Falcons do plan on passing often, they will have to be more efficient up front. With 2.5 sacks allowed per game, that is the 9th most in the NFL. Quarterback Matt Ryan might be hearing footsteps against the NFL’s 5th best pass rush.
What NFL fans across the league want to know, and not just in Atlanta, is whether or not Julio Jones will be healthy enough to play. Jones’ has been known to absolutely feast upon the Buccaneers secondary his entire career.
Last year was a bit of a reprieve from the norm as never totaled more than 80 yards in either NFC South matchup. Career wise, it tells a different story. His average receiving total, per game, is 121 yards per game. That’s right. I said per game AVERAGE. That’s just insane.
With more dominant years from Jones now firmly behind him, the Falcons still have another receiving weapon at their disposal in Calvin Ridley.
Ridleys first four game average before laying an egg against the Packers in week 4 was undeniable.
- 116 receiving yards
- 1.3 Touchdowns
- 21 receptions off 35 targets
- Rush Yards Allowed/Gm 10th (108.8) / Pass Yards Allowed/Gm 30th (281.8)
- Rush Touchdowns Allowed/Gm 19th (0.9) / Pass Touchdowns Allowed/Gm 24th (2.0)
- Sacks/Gm 19th (1.9) / Turnover Margin 13th (+0.2)
During the last days of the Dan Quinn era, the Falcons Defense was almost dead last in total yards allowed to opposing offenses. Since then, another familiar face in Raheem Morris was named as interim Head Coach. Ex-Buccaneers Head Coach and Falcons Defensive Coordinator, Morris has helped slow the bleeding a bit by allowing more than 50 yards less a game.
Either way, let’s face it If this Defense was any good then this Falcons team wouldn’t be staring at a 4 win season thus far.
They don’t have any player in the top 20 of Sacks or Tackles for loss. Only Blidi Wreh-Wilson is in the top 12 for Interceptions (12). The only thing allowing this Defense to do any real damage is if the Buccaneers allow them to.
What We Might Expect
In the previous two meetings between the Falcons and the Buccaneers, the Falcons failed to rush over 100 yards. It will be difficult to see them veer away from their heavy pass attack to hand the ball off to backups and bandaged up backs.
Betting money would have the Buccaneers heavily favored in controlling the score, but I never bet against Division underdogs. Something the Buccaneers have been for some time.
The Falcons will be considered one of the easiest paths to victory, but the Buccaneers always seem to ruin it by self immolation. They need to beat the teams they’re supposed to beat. So far, they have done so this year, but they will have to do it three more times. Once against Detroit. Twice against the Falcons.
Checkout Nathan’s Scouting Report each week at Bucsreport.com