On Sunday, the Buccaneers will travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons, a division rivalry that has produced some good games over the years. Although Tampa Bay should be able to win this one with ease, the team can’t let their guard down, as the opponent has come away with some sneaky and unexpected victories of their own. Let’s take a look at how the Bucs can stay focused and move to 9-3 on the season.
Where Will Cordarrelle Patterson Be?
The Buccaneers need to keep a close eye on Cordarrelle Patterson, a man who could have a role in all three aspects of the game (offense, defense, special teams). Patterson is officially listed as a running back on the Falcons’ roster, but is built more like a receiver or tight end. Unsurprisingly, he catches plenty of passes. Patterson is also a return specialist, and was recently added as a safety on the depth chart. The bottom line is that he’ll be all over the field, and Falcons head coach Arthur Smith can use him more than almost any other player in the league. If the Buccaneers accidentally let him loose on a play or two, regardless of what position he’s playing, things will be a lot closer than they should be.
Focus on Fournette
Running back Leonard Fournette had a very memorable game last week against Indianapolis, racking up 131 total yards and four touchdowns. Fournette has seen dramatic improvement in his pass-catching abilities this season, which has allowed the offense to be more dynamic. The Colts saw the best version of Fournette, and it would be smart to try and keep this hot streak alive versus the Falcons. He’s not showing any sign of slowing down, and is becoming one of the most consistent players at his position. All gas, no brakes.
Defense and the Deep Shots
On the topic of last weeks’ game against Indy, the Buccaneers gave up a 62-yard touchdown to wideout Ashton Dulin, making the fans back in Tampa start to sweat. Big plays like these simply can’t be allowed, and are often the difference between a win or a loss. The team gave up 31 points to an offense that usually relies on the run, and it wasn’t the first reminder of the defensive struggles this year. A lot of it has to do with injuries, especially at cornerback. However, the next man up has an equal responsibility, a responsibility that becomes even larger when the window for Super Bowl contention is still open.