The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. on the gorgeous green grass of Raymond James Stadium.
Both teams are coming off losses, with the Bucs falling 20-6 to the red-hot Detroit Lions and the Falcons losing a heartbreaker to the Washington Commanders 24-16 on the back of Desmond Ridder and his trio of interceptions.
While the Falcons should be a relatively easy task for the Bucs to take care of, it’s always a tricky thing with these divisional matchups, and anything can happen in the NFL (see: PJ Walker leading the Browns over the 49ers and Zach Wilson leading the Jets over the Eagles last Sunday).
With the Bucs leading the division, a victory here could do wonders for Tampa Bay’s prospects of clinching a three-peat of NFC South titles, a first for the franchise. They clearly won’t take the Falcons lightly, and they shouldn’t, despite what Atlanta’s very average 3-3 record might convey.
The Falcons have some real talent scattered across their defense, with interior linemen such as Grady Jarrett and Calais Campbell plugging up the middle and safety Jessie Bates III and corner A.J. Terrell roaming the secondary.
Baker Mayfield will have to continue to do a bit more than he should, as the Bucs’ running game seems to be headed on a train to nowhere. As depressing and annoying as it sounds, the Bucs are at the very bottom of the league when it comes to rush offense for a second consecutive season, and the Falcons’ defense is in the top 10 when it comes to defending the run (so they’ll look like the ‘86 Bears come Sunday afternoon).
As cliche as it might sound, the key for both teams will be to turnovers. If the Falcons can avoid a repeat of last week’s performance and manage to hold onto the ball against a Bucs defense that’s come away with 10 takeaways through five games to start the year, they could make things really tight and even steal a W on the road.
They have the playmakers to do some explosive things on offense, with running back Bijan Robinson, receiver Drake London, and tight end Kyle Pitts, all former first round picks of the past three seasons.
The good news for the Bucs is that Desmond Ridder is not Lions QB Jared Goff; the two QBs are on seemingly opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to production, with Goff putting up borderline MVP numbers and Ridder doing, well, a fair amount worse, even with those aforementioned elite playmakers.
Expect the Bucs to be able to make some noise on defense against the shoddy QB and a suspect Falcons offensive line, and if they can do just enough offensively to not lose the game, they should come out on top by a score of 17-13.