In nearly every facet of the game, the Buccaneers are a better football team than the Falcons; it wouldn’t take an NFL savant to figure out just how lopsided this matchup will be. I don’t think it’s ridiculous to say the division-leading Bucs have more areas of weakness than Atlanta has strengths.
Tom Brady and Byron Leftwich lead one of the most potent passing attacks in the league, but Leonard Fournette has completely broken out the past couple of games, finishing with three rushing touchdowns against the Colts on Sunday. It is all because the Tampa Bay offensive line is one of the best units in football. The Falcons defense doesn’t match up well except for two areas — A.J. Terrell and Grady Jarrett. Terrell can hang with Mike Evans & Co., and there aren’t many interior linemen who can handle Jarrett. Tampa may even be without starting guard Ali Marpet for a second straight game, which would play into Jarrett’s favor even more. However, the Falcons defense is severely outmatched outside of those two individual matchups.
It doesn’t get much better on the other side of the ball. Todd Bowles and Tampa boast one of the best run defenses in all of football, with arguably the best front seven in the league. In comparison, the Falcons have struggled mightily running the ball all year, outside of the Jacksonville and Philadelphia games. The Buccaneers’ defense is also opportunistic, forcing eight turnovers in the past two weeks. Again, it couldn’t be worse for Matt Ryan, who has thrown five interceptions the past three weeks.
You get the picture I’m trying to paint. There aren’t many weaknesses the Falcons can exploit, even if the Bucs are dealing with several different injuries on both sides of the ball. I propose for Falcons fans to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Prepare yourselves for a Falcons offensive performance similar to that of the Dallas and New England games, which scored a total of three points combined. At the same time, expect the defense to play similarly to how they played against the Cowboys and Buccaneers (the first time around), which gave up 91 combined points.
Conversely, fans should hope the Falcons’ offense resembles that of the Dolphins and Washington Football Team games — 60 combined points. While the best defensive performances fans should hope for are those that take after the Giants and Jaguars games, who Atlanta held to 28 combined points. My point is that it would behoove fans to expect the Falcons’ worst performance on Sunday against the Super Bowl favorite Buccaneers so that if they play any better than that, it’ll feel like a treat.
The Falcons have playoffs in mind, obviously; players and coaches will do all they can to upset the Bucs — any given Sunday and all. However, this will be a self-reflection moment for the team, more than likely — a time to go back and self-scout to determine who really wants to be in Atlanta going forward.