The Falcons will face the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers Sunday afternoon as Atlanta looks to get on track and improve each week while Tampa Bay looks to return to Super Bowl Sunday. These matchups will be what decides the game:
Falcons offensive line vs. Buccaneers defensive line
The Falcons offensive line was dominated by the Eagles defensive front, which is inferior to what the Buccaneers have along their defensive line. Jason Pierre-Paul, William Gholston, Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh, and Shaq Barrett are as effective stopping the run as they are at rushing the passer. This will be a blood bath if the Falcons big uglies don’t bring their lunch boxes Sunday afternoon.
To make it easier in pass protection, the offensive line needs to generate some ounce of push in the run game so the offense can stay ahead of the chains. Last week, the Falcons played into the Eagles hands by letting their pass rushers pin their ears back and come after Matt Ryan. This will be one of the best groups they face all season, so it will be interesting to see how they respond individually and as a group after getting thrashed by Philly.
Falcons defensive line vs. Buccaneers offensive line
The Falcons defensive line was the worst run defense in Week 1, allowing a league-leading 3.39 yards rushing before contact against the Eagles. The Philly offensive line is underrated because they suffered so many injuries, but they have four high-quality starters. Unfortunately, the Bucs have one of the best offensive lines in the league, and the Falcons will have to find a way to stop the run and pressure Tom Brady.
The defensive front was abysmal on all accounts. If the defense is to hold Brady and the Bucs within striking distance for the offense, the defensive line must have the games of their lives, starting with Grady Jarrett. The star defensive tackle was nowhere to be found against the Eagles, but that can be attributed to double teams and other schematic disadvantages.
Dean Pees vs. Tom Brady
The last time Tom Brady faced a Dean Pees defense was the 2019 playoffs. The Titans beat the Patriots to advance to the AFC Championship as Brady’s historic career in New England ended. He had a terrible game, completing 20 of his 37 attempts for 209 yards and one interception — which was his last pass in a Patriots uniform.
I fully expect Pees to put together a better game plan for Brady than Jalen Hurts because the Eagles offense toasted the Falcons defense with RPOs and zone reads thanks to their quarterback’s mobility. Brady is getting rid of the ball faster than ever before, so a press-man coverage strategy could work, but Pees will have to throw the kitchen sink at The Goat to give his defense a chance at stopping this high-powered offense.
Arthur Smith vs. Todd Bowles
As a head coach, Arthur Smith’s first two drives went well, but they stalled inside the red zone. He was so highly coveted because of his innovative offensive system and efficient red zone offense, so I expect Smith to come correct when facing Bowles. The Bucs want to get pressure with four then give exotic mug looks on third downs. If Smith can stay ahead of the chains, the Falcons offense should put up a ton of points as the Cowboys did.
David is one of the best linebackers in football and certainly the best three-down cover guy. He has the speed and IQ to defend Pitts, but he should feast if Arthur Smith schemes him into more favorable matchups against smaller safeties or other linebackers. He left much to be desired after his rookie debut, but it is only a matter of time before Pitts has his iconic performance, establishing himself as one of the premier tight ends in this league. This matchup doesn’t favor Pitts, but Smith can help his tight end by motioning him and lining him up in different spots.