After an embarrassing 41-31 loss on Sunday night, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are at a crossroad. They have now dropped two games in a row and sit at 2-2 overall. The Bucs will have to right the ship quickly if they want to stay on top of the NFC South.
There is truly no rest for the wicked as the Bucs must now turn around for a division game to determine who leads the South. They will host an Atlanta Falcons team that has played surprisingly well so far this year. This game is suddenly a bit more pressure packed after being thought of as an easy win a month ago.
The Bucs are still trying to find their stride. Can they do that against this less talented Falcons team or will the slide continue? I dive into the games key matchups to find out.
Vita Vea vs Falcons Interior Offensive Line
Vita Vea has proven to be one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. He is a devastating run defender with incredible power. He is nothing less than the foundation of the Bucs defense.
However, this season has been a different story. We have seen Vea pushed back at the point of attack, looking vulnerable at what he is supposed to be best at. As a result, the Buccaneers run defense has taken a step back this season.
This week has the makings of a “get right” game. The Falcons interior offensive line is not very good on paper. In theory, this is a game Vea should dominate.
The name to look out for is Chris Lindstrom. He was a first round pick back in 2019 and is the team’s best offensive lineman. If he can neutralize Vea the way he has been the first few weeks then it would be a big advantage for the Falcons.
Drake London vs Bucs Corners
Atlanta has a shiny new toy at wide receiver. Drake London was the Falcons first round pick this year and is off to a good start. He has 231 receiving yards and two touchdowns in his first four career games.
At 6’5, London is a big body wide receiver. He is also very fluid with good long speed. You could call him a Mike Evans type, although I’ll hold off on his Hall of Fame bust at this point.
Luckily, the Bucs has the size and speed at cornerback to match this. Carlton Davis excels against this type of big body receiver. He has they size, speed and physicality to counter a guy like London.
Jamel Dean is also a big, fast corner who can match up well. He’s played well this year and will look to get back on track this week. These two need to have a strong game and lock down the Falcons young star in the making.
Bucs Linebackers vs Falcons Splash Plays
We know the type of talent the Bucs have at linebacker. Lavonte David is a future Hall of Famer and Devin White is fresh off his defensive player of the month award. This is the best linebacking duo in the NFL.
They will put that title to the test this weekend vs a pair of very different types of playmakers. Kyle Pitts is a freak athlete at the tight end position and he’s coming off a sensational rookie season. Marcus Mariota is a very mobile quarterback who makes this rushing offense that much more dangerous.
Whether it’s checking Pitts in coverage or spying Mariota as a runner, David and White need to slow these two down.
AJ Terrell and Grady Jarrett vs Everyone
The Falcons defense is largely underwhelming on paper. However, they certainly aren’t completely void of talent. AJ Terrell and Grady Jarrett are two of the best at their positions.
It’s no secret that the Bucs offense has sputtered this year. In a perfect world they can beat up on this subpar Falcons defense. In order two do that they have to take these two stars out of the game.
The game plan has to focus on them. The players need to be aware of them at all times. Tampa Bay can’t let these two individuals beat them.
The Buccaneers are the far more talented team here. They have to key in on a few key guys for Atlanta, but should be able to manage the rest of the game fairly easily.
Will things go as smoothly as they should on paper? Of course not. Let’s not forget that this is still a division rivalry to determine the early leader of the NFC South.
With that said, this should be a comfortable Bucs win. The Falcons aren’t particularly good and they don’t present specific matchup problems that cause concern.
Buccaneers – 23
Falcons – 9
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