Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. EST, November 1
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
Announcers: Justin Kutcher, Charles Davis, Tony Siragusa
Radio: 92.9 The Game
Winning a very ugly game, the Atlanta Falcons (6-1) trail the Carolina Panthers by 0.5 games in the division. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) come into town looking to steal a divisional game in the Georgia Dome. The Buccaneers will likely be without WR Vincent Jackson, who could be out for multiple weeks according to NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport. The Bucs will likely get back their young tight end, Austin Seferian-Jenkins. He has seven receptions for for 139 yards, bringing in two touchdowns in the two games he has played in. While on paper this might look like an easy matchup for Atlanta, expect Tampa Bay to give them a hard game.
If you have missed almost half the season and come back to see the Atlanta Falcons are 6-1, you would expect them to be clicking on all cylinders, right? Wrong. The past three games, Atlanta has gone 2-1, but they could have easily lost all three games. The offense has lost its hot start, and Julio Jones will be the first to admit it. Jones told the media, “We are just in a funk. We have to get out of it.” Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will have to find a way to get his offense clicking again, or the Buccaneers could pull an upset.
Running back Devonta Freeman has been nothing short of spectacular, but one man cannot carry an offense. Matt Ryan will need to come out and find a way to get back to his old ways, as he has thrown for three touchdowns and four interceptions in the past three games. What is the problem with Ryan? I believe he is not trusting his receivers. Watch this video from last week, where Ryan forces it to Jones with Roddy White clearly open for the first down.
— Aaron Freeman (@falcfans) October 26, 2015
No matter how great Jones is, he will need help. Rookie Justin Hardy will likely be playing, as Leonard Hankerson (hamstring) is out and Nick Williams (hamstring) will likely be questionable. Ryan has to distribute the ball to different receivers, and I expect Ryan to have a great day come Sunday.
The Buccaneers are coming off a 31-30 loss at Washington, blowing a 24-0 lead in the second quarter. Tampa Bay’s offense overall ranks 18th out of 32 teams via Pro Football Focus. Rookie Jameis Winston is starting to look dangerous, as he has not registered a turnover in his past two games. He has had a 125.9 passer rating and 10.54 yards per attempt, which is staggering numbers. He will face an above-average defense, as the Falcons defense has saved several games this season.
Atlanta’s defense has allowed an average of 303.7 yards, but have some glaring holes. One of the main problems is the team is dead last in sacks with only eight. Rookie Vic Beasley has only two sacks, but with his talent, I could see him having a big game and find ways to hit Jameis Winston. The Falcons will be without starting strong safety William Moore, and Kemal Ishmael will likely get his first start of the year.
The linebackers for Atlanta will have to contain a revamped Doug Martin, as he has run for 100 yards in the past three games.bMartin has dealt with injuries in his young career, but he has started to look like the player he was in his rookie season. He will have to face a defense that has only allowed 3.7 yards per carry, led by an alert front seven. Mike Evans is another factor that the Falcons will have to deal with, as the 6’5” receiver is always a threat to make big plays. He will have his hands full with Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant, but the Buccaneers could put Evans up against Robert Alford or Jalen Collins. The Buccaneers have played well the past couple of weeks, but going up against Atlanta in the Georgia Dome will cause them problems. I expect Atlanta to be able to find blitz packages to cause Jameis Winston to make mistake.
While many view this as a “trap” game, I view this as a game where the Atlanta Falcons will click on all cylinders. While I have predicted Atlanta to win all their games to this point and many might call me a homer, it isn’t like I have been far off. They have had one loss in seven games, which few expected. And guess what? I am predicting Atlanta to win again, and by double-digits. If you have Matt Ryan on your fantasy team and are nervous to start him, just trust him this game. It is a new year, but the Falcons decimated the Bucs last year 56-14 in the Georgia Dome last season. While it will not be that much of a beating, I believe it still will be a beating. Matt Ryan and the offense will click, and the defense will sack Jameis Winston a couple of times. Oh, and Doug Martin is not hitting 100 this game.
The Pick: Atlanta Falcons 35, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17