The Bucs and Falcons will square off on Sunday – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-0)
Sunday September 11, 2015, 1:00 P.M. ET
Georgia Dome (71,228)
Network Television: FOX
Play-By-Play: Sam Rosen Analyst: David Diehl Sideline: Holly Sonders
Bucs Radio: US 103.5, Flagship Station (103.5 FM, 620 AM & 95.3 FM)
Play-By-Play: Gene Deckerhoff Analyst: Dave Moore Sideline: T.J. Rives
Last Game: Tampa Bay Lost at. Carolina, 38-10; Atlanta Lost vs. New Orleans, 20-17
The Bucs head to Atlanta for Week 1 of the 2016 season, looking for their third straight win over division rival Falcons and a 1-0 start to the Dirk Koetter era in Tampa Bay. Games against NFC South opponents always carry a little more weight, but it’s especially the case this Sunday. Players want to make a statement for Koetter and defensive coordinator Mike Smith, formally with reversed rolls in Atlanta, and begin a tough early road ahead by gaining two games in the division. How do the Pewter Reporters see this game playing out?
PewterReport.com Publisher & Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds
In order to have any chance at a winning season – let alone a double-digit winning season like I predicted at 10-6 – the Bucs must win their winnable games. Week 1 on the road against the Falcons, Koetter and Mike Smith’s former, and a team that Tampa Bay swept last year, is a winnable game. Matt Ryan has proved to be tough at home, and he knows Smith’s tendencies on defense just like Smith knows Ryan’s tendencies after the ball is snapped. Jameis Winston might start slow after being too amped up, but will settle down and target tight ends Cameron Brate and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who will take advantage of an inexperienced, yet athletic linebacker corps. Smith’s defense records four sacks and two interceptions and takes control in the second half as Tampa Bay pulls away. Both Koetter and Smitty get game balls.
Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Bucs Win 23-17
Reynolds’ Pewter Pick To Click: DE Jacquies Smith
I can see Smith, who had four sacks to lead Tampa Bay in the preseason, give Falcons right tackle Ryan Schraeder fits on third downs and obvious passing downs and getting to Ryan after Will Gholston beats Schraeder up on first and second downs.
PewterReport.com Editor in Chief & Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
First games on the road are always tough, as usually teams are as healthy as they are going to be all season, and of course want to get out to a fast start on the season. Both of these teams feel they are on the rise, and both know they have a perfect opportunity to gain some early season momentum within the NFC South, especially with Carolina losing on Thursday night.
I can see the Falcons, riding a wave of emotion and behind a very loud Georgia Dome, getting out to a quick start. Mike Smith’s defense could struggle early, and the Bucs offense led by Jameis Winston will start slow. But the key to winning big road games, is taking the first few punches on the chin, countering with a few and getting the game to the fourth quarter. This is where a second-year Winston will thrive. The Bucs defense will settle in as the game goes, and behind a motivated unit who wants to send defensive coordinator Mike Smith back to Tampa with a win over his former team, the Bucs defense will create two second half turnovers and Tampa Bay eventually wins by 10.
Cook’s Score Prediction: Bucs Win 31-21
Cook’s Pewter Pick To Click: WR Mike Evans
Mike Evans must be tired of hearing about dropped balls, disappointing second seasons and how great Julio Jones is and I think goes off for a monster game against the Falcons with 12 catches for over 150 yards.
PewterReport.com Beat Writer Eric Horchy
The Bucs haven’t had much luck in season openers over the past decade or so, but they’ll jump into the Dirk Koetter era with a win in Atlanta. Doing so will allow Tampa Bay to start 1-0 for the first time since beating Carolina 16-10 in 2012. The Bucs haven’t opened with a road win since taking out Minnesota 24-13 in 2005.
Shaking a tendency of digging early deficits is a major focus of Koetter and his staff. Players are constantly seeing an image with the words “Start Fast” flashing on a monitor in the locker room. Look for the Jameis Winston-led offense to come out swinging and quiet down the Georgia Dome crowd as the Bucs hold a slim lead throughout much of the day. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will get his 250-300 yards passing, but a tenacious Bucs defensive front will have success harassing him into making a couple key turnovers that locks up victory for Tampa Bay.
Horchy’s Score Prediction: Bucs Win 27-24
Horchy’s Pewter Pick To Click: LB Kwon Alexander
The Bucs’ second-year middle linebacker has been waiting for this moment to come since having to sit out the final four games of 2015. He’ll hit double-digits in tackles for the third straight time against Atlanta and factor in on at least one of Tampa Bay’s three-plus turnovers.
PewterReport.com Beat Writer Zach Shapiro
Matt Ryan has never lost a home opener at the Georgia Dome (8-0), but I believe the streak ends Sunday. The Bucs got two of their six wins in 2015 against the Falcons, including their signature victory last season, a 23-20 OT win in Atlanta. On that day, Jameis Winston and Kwon Alexander were the offensive and defensive MVP, respectively, and I envision a similar result in Week 1.
The former will take advantage of last year’s 18th ranked secondary, which lost first-round pick Keanu Neal for a few weeks to a knee injury, while the latter, behind an aggressive D-Line, will shadow RB Devonta Freeman and help make the Falcons offense one-dimensional by the second half. From there Matt Ryan will struggle in his first regular season game under the guidance of coordinator Mike Shanahan and the Bucs revamped secondary, now a promising unit, will limit Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. The Koetter era starts off 1-0.
Shapiro’s Score Prediction: Bucs win 24-16
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he’s handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: [email protected]
Atlanta looks to be the worse team in our division. You need to sweep the worse team in your division.
I’m not sure why everyone expects Atlanta to fold. They have improved from last year. How much, I have no clue. I’ll go along with everyone else, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they don’t beat us because of the turf and home field advantage. Did we practice this weak on the turf? Did anybody think of going over to Tropicana Field and run some plays in a dome? Go Bucs! Lets get this win!
Be a tough one for sure. We’ll shall see if it’s all talk or more action.
This will be a dog fight.
Sorry about that last comment.
I agree with Horse. Also, every year most of us (I’m the worst) drink the koolaid. My biggest fear is that our defense will be weak against the run this year based upon what I observed from our first team D during preseason. Maybe it will take the first half of the season to adjust to a new system.
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