These two teams have taken two different paths en route to Sunday’s game, but they find themselves in very similar positions entering their week 13 matchup. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6) host the Atlanta Falcons in their second meeting of the season.
The teams met previously in week 7, when the Bucs took advantage of four Falcons turnovers and squeaked by in OT, 23-20. Atlanta seemingly controlled the game for most of the first half, but found multiple interesting ways to give the ball back to Tampa Bay. A few fumbled redzone snaps later and a couple of other baffling mistakes, the Falcons found themselves down 20-0. However, Matt Ryan would not go out without a fight. He led the Falcons back with 397 yards of passing and two touchdowns. However, the Bucs were able to come up with a field goal on the first possession of overtime, and the Falcons could not answer. It was a game that signified the direction the two teams were going. The once 5-0 Falcons, have lost five of their last six. Meanwhile, the Bucs had been scorching hot until their loss last week against the Colts.
Turnovers are usually the determining factor in most ball games. Atlanta dominated the turnover battle in the first five games of the season, but the running backs have seemingingly forgotten how to hold onto the ball, the centers have forgotten how to snap the ball, and Matt Ryan has forgotten how to go through his progressions. Other than that, the offense has actually moved the ball up and down the field quite nicely. Matt Ryan is on pace to throw the most interceptions of his career, and almost all of them have come from just awful decision making. Ryan is a veteran quarterback who should not be making those sorts of mistakes. If the Falcons want a chance to beat the Bucs, Ryan is going to have to make those mistake disappear.
The Bucs have been one of the best stories in football this year. Jameis Winston has shaken off some early struggles and really turned into a very nice quarterback already. He tied the rookie-record with 5 TD passes against Eagles two weeks ago. Doug Martin has also bounced back after a rough year last year, and become one of the best running backs in the NFL. He has already passed the 1,000 yard mark on the season and is running the ball at an efficient 5.1 YPC. It is a surprise this team is 5-6, but it is no fluke, the Buccaneers can play with anyone in the NFL.
These two teams are very similar. They feature premier rushing attacks on offense, and solid run stoppers on defense. They both are used to controlling the line of scrimmage, so Sunday will be a battle in the trenches. In the last matchup, the Bucs were able to run the ball for 117 yards on 32 carries, and the Falcons rushed for 101 yards on 27 carries. The battle on the ground should remain pretty even, where the game will be decided is quarterback play. There is no doubt Ryan is a better quarterback than Winston this point in their careers, but Ryan has not been the same Ryan we have seen in years past or even earlier this season. Players go through slumps, and Ryan is certainly in one now. If he cannot get out of it on Sunday, the Falcons will not be going home with a victory, because Winston is ready to win.