Atlanta Falcons vs. Buccaneers
Chase Irle: After back-to-back primetime matchups versus some of the NFC’s best, it does not get much easier for the Falcons as they head back home on a short week to take on the division rival Bucs. The Bucs have had the Falcons number of late, especially in Atlanta, where they have won the last two seasons.
This game worries me for a number of reasons. The first is the immense talent the Bucs possess on both sides of the ball. They are the one team in the division that I think could possibly take the division crown from Atlanta this season. The game also takes place on a short week after two marquee primetime games. It could easily be a let down game, especially if the Falcons are coming into it after two wins like I predicted.
The biggest determinant for Tampa Bay taking that next step into a Super Bowl contender is their development of third year quarterback James Winston. He had a huge season last year, throwing for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns, but his 18 interceptions are proof of his immaturity and cannot continue if the Bucs want to beat the Falcons this year, or better yet, win the division.
In this game, I see the Falcons offense getting off to a slow start. The short week and cross country trip back to Atlanta will play a factor in this one, as the Bucs jump on the Falcons early much like they did a year ago in the Georgia Dome. With an improved offense and a defense with enough talent to actually slow down the high powered Atlanta offense, the early deficit will prove too much to overcome.
Atlanta will have a tough time getting anything going on the ground. After a first half full of pressure on Matt Ryan, the Falcons are finally able to find success through the air in the second half. However, Jameis Winston will play one of his best games of the season on the way to a Tampa Bay win.
Prediction: Falcons 23, Buccaneers 28
Falcons season record: 8-3
Michael Arkin: I like the Bucs, I really do. They are an team on the rise and have given the Falcons fits over the last couple of seasons. The problem is this is the first time they will be seeing the Falcons, and they will not catch Atlanta sleeping to start the season like they did last season.
I know Atlanta is coming off a tough week of travel, but they will have their heads in this one, looking to demolish a division rival in their home stadium. By this point in the season, Matt Ryan and this offense should be clicking on all cylinders. While the Bucs might have a top-ten defense in the league this season, I do not see them slowing down Ryan much in this one. Atlanta comes back home and drops another 30-bucket in their immaculate stadium.
The Bucs offense has plenty of new weapons for Jameis Winston to play with. But the weapons will not be the problem in this one. It will be Winston, who has shown tendencies throughout his young career to make egregious mistakes. This Falcons defense will be a hungry one this season, creating turnovers and dropping bodies. They give Winston and the Bucs all they can handle in this game.
Prediction: Falcons 35, Buccaneers 20
Falcons season record: 9-2