After a heartbreaking defeat on the road in Washington, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Atlanta this week looking for vengeance in more ways than one. While the immediate issue is keeping the team from sliding into a losing streak after allowing last week to slip away, there is lingering hurt in the Georgia Dome. There is a lingering pain of the way things went the last time Tampa Bay visited, to the tune of a 56-14 beating on Thursday Night Football. What will the Buccaneers be bringing to Atlanta to change the tide?
Offensive Outlook: Feed the Dougernaut, Fly to Evans
The offensive gameplan is simple this week, but it comes with difficulties. Doug Martin has quietly become one of the most dominant rushers in the league, and he’s done this behind what is certainly not the best offensive line in the league. While the line has improved, they still struggle at times. Doug must continue his onslaught in order for the Bucs to have any chance at keeping up with the Falcons’ high-octane offense.
When Dirk Koetter returns to the Georgia Dome to lead his new offense, he will be wishing he had all hands on deck. While Jameis Winston has become more effective in taking care of the football and continues to make important throws, the receiving corps will be heavily depleted going into Atlanta. With Vincent Jackson, Louis Murphy, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins all out of action, Mike Evans will have to step up more than ever. If Evans can repeat last week’s performance, and younger talents like Donteea Dye, Adam Humphries, and Russell Shepard hold their own, the Buccaneers just might be able to hang with Atlanta.
Defensive Outlook: Better Than Your Best
For the Buccaneers to have any hope of stopping the hemorrhaging after the Falcons offense goes for the jugular, they’ll need a consistency on defense that has been basically nonexistent. Major issues with penalties, missed tackles, and incorrect plays will have to stop. In the secondary, the slightest misstep could turn into a long Matt Ryan touchdown. Closer to the line, the linebacking corps will have to be careful about falling for fakes.
The Falcons are even more deadly than they’ve been in recent years, as running back Devonta Freeman leads the NFL in rushing yards. Not only will the defense need to keep Matt Ryan in check, but they’ll have to keep Freeman from running all over them. Significantly less talented backs have gashed the Buccaneers defense earlier in the season, and this will be a key challenge as the defense tries to find an identity.
Dealin’ With Tha’ X-Factor (Oh, I know you hate the X-Factor, but you ain’t gotta look at me like that)
While a lot of factors will need to align for this game to go in Tampa Bay’s favor, what they truly need is a career game from linebacker Lavonte David. David will need to help keep the defense on task and focused on their job, but he’ll also need to be making plays all game long. David needs to lead in keeping linebackers on task and help prevent Freeman from breaking free on long runs or Ryan from gashing them up the middle. Big-time turnovers will be needed on offense to not only keep the Buccaneers within range but keep the Falcons from pulling ahead.
Predictive MVPs: Mike Evans, Lavonte David
Score Prediction: Buccaneers win, 38-35
Author’s Note: Sorry for the brief absence, everyone. While I love writing for WTB?, and that hasn’t changed, I’ve also been heavily bombarded by overtime at work and busy with a book I’m hoping to be publishing by early 2016. Fret not, Patches isn’t going anywhere. He just had a rough week.