The Buccaneers look to bury a division opponent and get themselves back in the race after a 2 game losing streak and a bye week. Who are the Bucs? The team that dominated New Orleans and Philadelphia and nearly beat Pittsburgh, or the one who laid an egg in Chicago?
We’ll find out today! Here are some other things in our What to watch out for the preview of Bucs-Falcons
Did the Bucs defense’s self-study make a difference?
One of the great things about a bye week is it allows you to catch your breath, do a little bit of self-study and correct some of the things that have been plaguing your football team. A hurricane prevented Tampa Bay from having a bye week in 2017, but in 2016, after the bye, the Bucs ripped off a 6-2 run and the defense, which had struggled, played some of it’s best ball in the Mike Smith era. The returns weren’t immediate, though. After winning coming out of the bye against San Francisco, the defense struggled for two more weeks in losses to the Raiders (in overtime) and Atlanta on a short week (Thursday night football). After that, the defense went on its amazing run.
That’s not to say this will happen again. It’s just to illustrate sometimes a bye week is all you need to figure things out. None of that may matter against Matt Ryan and Julio Jones today, but the key is for the Bucs defense to make them earn it. No blown coverages or missed assignments. Do your job. If Ryan and Jones make plays, so be it.
Can Jameis protect the football?
We know Jameis. We know he’s going throw for a lot of yards, probably a few touchdowns and he loves playing against the Falcons. We also know he has a penchant for turning the football over. I’m of the opinion that the only way the Bucs lose in Atlanta today is if they beat themselves with turnovers. Jameis’ return was a little unnerving, throwing two interceptions, but only one was really his fault (the other came on a tip by Khalil Mack). We’ve all talked about how much better Winston played down the stretch and in the pre-season. With the exception of the last game (where he admitted he was forcing the ball to Mike Evans to allow him to achieve 1,000 yds receiving), fumbles, not interceptions, were the major issue for Winston. Winston only put the ball in jeopardy once in his pre-season action (and that was a touchdown to Chris Godwin), so decision making wise with the football, he’s certainly been much better. He’ll need to be today.
Can the Bucs pass rush finally arrive?
We know they’re better on the front seven. Yet, somehow, other than Jason Pierre-Paul, the Bucs defense has actually gotten worse rushing the passer. That has to change. Gerald McCoy has to start being the difference maker he’s supposed to be. Vinny Curry needs to bring the pressure more consistently and man-child Vita Vea has to make his presence felt. The Bucs may get Beau Allen back, meaning most of the expected rotation will be back for Tampa Bay.
If the Bucs are going to keep the Falcons offense from making it a shootout, pounding Matt Ryan into the Mercedes Benz Stadium turf is a must.
Will the Bucs make a statement?
This is a golden opportunity for the Bucs. Win this game, and you prove you belong in the discussion as a contender. Contenders beat 1-4 teams. I don’t care that Atlanta has injuries. Everybody has injuries. I don’t care that they’re “a better 1-4 team than most”. That’s a bunch of crap. They are 1-4. As Bill Parcells said, you are what your record says you are. The Bucs need to win this game. If they don’t, then they simply aren’t the team we hoped they’d be.