The PewterReport.com staff shares its thoughts on the upcoming Bucs game and pick who we think we win, including a score prediction and a pick-to-click – a Tampa Bay player we think will play really well. Let us know you thoughts and add your prediction in the comment section.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (7-8) VS. ATLANTA FALCONS (6-9)
WHEN: SUNDAY, DECEMBER 29, 1:00 P.M. ET
WHERE: RAYMOND JAMES STADIUM (65,618)
TELEVISION: FOX (WTVT)
PLAY-BY-PLAY: TIM BRANDO
ANALYST: MATT MILLEN
SIDELINE: SARA WALSH
RADIO: 98ROCK, FLAGSHIP STATION (WXTB-97.9 FM)
PLAY-BY-PLAY: GENE DECKERHOFF
ANALYST: DAVE MOORE
SIDELINE: T.J. RIVES
PewterReport.com Publisher/Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds
Neither Tampa Bay nor Atlanta will make the playoffs this year, but second place in the NFC South division is on the line on Sunday as a consolation prize. If the Falcons win they will be 7-9 along with the Bucs, but will have a better record in the NFC South division (4-2) than Tampa Bay (2-4). If the Bucs win, they will have an 8-8 record and a 3-3 mark in the division, while the Falcons will finish 2019 6-10 with a 3-3 record in the NFC South.
More importantly, the Bucs can truly feel good about how they finished the 2019 campaign and their prospects for 2020 with a victory over the Falcons would mean that Tampa Bay finished Bruce Arians’ first year with a 6-2 mark over the second half of the season, following a 2-6 start. And for the fans, they would like to witness the home team win for just the third time at Raymond James Stadium this season.
In order for that to happen, the Bucs need to continue to put the clamps on opponents defensively, and the last time Tampa Bay faced Atlanta, the Falcons didn’t have running back Devonta Freeman or tight end Austin Hooper in the lineup, and wide receiver Calvin Ridley missed half the game due to injury. Handling the Falcons offense at nearly full strength – Ridley will be out for this game – can be quite a challenge, but I think the Bucs are up for it.
The biggest thing Tampa Bay’s offense can do for success is to play turnover-free football, and that means zero interceptions from quarterback Jameis Winston. If Winston doesn’t turn the ball over, the Bucs should win – even without Pro Bowl wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. Wide receivers Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson and tight ends O.J. Howard, Cam Brate and Codey McElroy should be enough for the Bucs to score enough points to win, in addition to the one-two punch on the ground with Ronald Jones III and Peyton Barber. If the Bucs lose, it will likely be due to Winston’s inability to protect the ball.
Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Bucs 26, Falcons 23
Reynolds’ Pick-To-Click: OLB Shaq Barrett
Reynolds’ Season Record: 7-8
PewterReport.com Editor/Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
Winning the last game of the current year for momentum for next season is way overrated. No one in 2017 remembered beating the Panthers in the final game of 2016 to go 9-7 that year. If they did, then it didn’t carry over to anything of significance as Tampa Bay went 5-11 following that “momentum” last game win over Carolina.
So winning or losing this game will have little bearing on how the team will perform in 2020. To the fans, however, that might be a different story. Being able to say your team went 8-8 gives you a better feeling heading into the offseason. It might also help sell a few more season tickets or boost corporate sales a tad. So from a business standpoint winning is always a good thing.
Still, everyone wants to win, right? The coaches do for sure, and probably a majority of the locker room. But will we see 100 percent maximum effort from either team on Sunday? These end of year games have a preseason feel to me when there is literally nothing to play for other than pride. And with the Bucs down wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, it may resemble a preseason game as well. Players are planning Caribbean vacations, family outings to Disney World or just looking forward to sleeping in until noon if they want. It is only natural. The NFL season is a long, taxing-on-the-body marathon. And who wants blow out an ACL in the 16th game of the season or some other type of long-term rehab injury?
This game offers little excitement to me, and a lot of fans as well, and most likely that will be reflected in the attendance at Raymond James Stadium. If you are looking for good deals on tickets from the brokers outside of the stadium, this is your week.
But the game is on the schedule and still has to be played. So what happens? The Bucs took care of the Falcons earlier this season on the road, so it would be safe to assume the Bucs shouldn’t have any issue this week in the rematch. The difference though is, the Bucs were at near full strength in their last matchup and the Falcons were wounded. This game, it is the exact opposite.
The difference in this game will be can the Bucs manufacture enough offense with a limited receiving corps and how many turnovers will Jameis Winston have? And also will we see a repeat of the Bucs defense that played their best game of the year last Saturday against the Texans?
The Falcons are playing really good football after a dreadful start to the year and with the Bucs lack of weapons on offense, I see the Falcons winning a close game. A late Winston turnover is the difference unfortunately and the debate will rage on all offseason until a decision is officially made on Winston’s future. Even then both sides will still make their arguments on social media and call-in shows, the Pewter Report message board and around the office coolers and family dinner tables.
It’s a Bucs life.
Cook’s Score Prediction: Falcons 28, Bucs 27
Cook’s Pick-To-Click: TE Cam Brate
Cook’s Season Record: 6-9
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Reporter Trevor Sikkema
What’s the difference between 8-8 and 7-9? Bruce Arians and the rest of the Bucs coaching staff would tell you that there is a big difference. Arians said himself last week that though the extra win doesn’t give them anything in the record books for next season, it does plant a seed of positive motivation going into the long offseason.
But before they get there the Buccaneers have one more game to play, as they host the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday. It was recently announced by the team that Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn will return as head coach in 2020. That early announcement is likely a nice gesture to get the monkey of uncertainty off Quinn’s back. But I don’t expect that to make a difference in the result this Sunday.
The Bucs will be without their top two weapons in the passing game, as wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin will not be dressed. However, what the Bucs do have should still be enough. Even with Winston’s four interceptions last week, they had a chance to win it at the end. That’s the nature of this team. They still have guys like Cam Brate, O.J. Howard, Breshad Perriman and Justin Watson. That group has shown that in Arians’ offense they can still put up the points. And that performance by them against Houston was against a playoff team. The Falcons are not to the caliber of the Texans, and I expect that to show up in the final score.
I think the Bucs win big. I think for the first time everything truly comes together. They’ve been so close in every area, but haven’t put a true complete game together yet. Winston will make his mistakes, but he’ll make more good plays than mistakes. I can see the run game and the defense also holding their own here in this final matchup. Because of that I see a big Buccaneer victory.
Sikkema’s Score Prediction: Bucs 42, Falcons 17
Sikkema’s Pick-To-Click: QB Jameis Winston
Sikkema’s Season Record: 5-10
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Taylor Jenkins
While the Falcons enter their Week 17 matchup against the Buccaneers on a bit of a hot streak to round out the season, carrying a three-game winning streak over the Jaguars, the Panthers and the NFC West-leading 49ers, I think the result will be similar to when Tampa packed up and went to Atlanta in November.
Despite missing three of their top receiving options in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and rookie Scotty Miller, Tampa Bay proved this past weekend against the Texans that its offense is still capable of running down the field and putting points on the board. Offensively, it will come down to Jameis Winston limiting turnovers – that’s it. We know the Bucs’ run game is below average and we can expect it won’t be the deciding factor on Sunday. We know that the defense has improved, giving Tampa Bay ample opportunities to win ball games in the second half of the 2019 season. And we know that Winston remains turnover-prone to a baffling extent at times.
Winston threw two interceptions in the first quarter against Atlanta in the last meeting, but rebounded with 313 passing yards and three touchdowns. Atlanta’s secondary has also improved greatly since Raheem Morris was tasked with leading the unit at the year’s midpoint.
For Atlanta, it will be about keeping up – assuming Winston doesn’t throw points directly to them. With Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, who was held to just 68 yards in the last game between the Bucs and Falcons, that never seems out out of the question. The absence of Calvin Ridley bodes well for Tampa Bay’s young secondary, but Atlanta’s offensive firepower remains strong with their talented tight end Austin Hooper and second-year wideout Russell Gage, who put up a career-high 76 yards against the Bucs earlier in the year.
Devonta Freeman is back healthy, but without a running back eclipsing 100 yards against the Bucs all season this game has all the makings of an NFC South shootout, and I don’t see Tampa Bay losing a shootout to Atlanta this year as they have so regularly in past seasons.
Jenkins’ Score Prediction: Bucs 33, Falcons 20
Jenkins’ Pick-To-Click: WR Breshad Perriman
Jenkins’ Season Record: 5-10
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Matt Matera
It’s going to look a little different this second time around that the Bucs and Falcons play. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Scotty Miller, and Jordan Whitehead are out for the Bucs, while running back Devonta Freeman and tight end Austin Hooper both return for Atlanta. Even with the additions for the Falcons and subtractions for the Bucs, I see the Bucs winning much like they did in their first meeting – handily, and by double digits.
The Bucs are one of the best teams in stopping the run, so slowing down Freeman won’t be much of a problem. You know why the Bucs defense was so successful when these teams played in Week 12? Tampa Bay got to the quarterback. And that’s exactly what it will do again to a weak Atlanta offensive line. Devin White blitzed up the middle without any trouble, and the rest of the defensive line caused a ton of issues for Matt Ryan. I see Shaq Barrett breaking the Bucs’ single season franchise record, as the Bucs record at least three sacks.
Jameis Winston may not have Evans and Godwin out there, but the last game showed that the Bucs offense could still move the ball with Breshad Perriman as the number one receiver. Tampa Bay was able to go down the field, it was just the five turnovers that prevented them from scoring more and they still put up 20 points. This is the last chance for Winston to leave a lasting, positive impression as we enter the offseason with questions about his future here in Tampa Bay. Look for a mix of Perriman, Justin Watson, Cam Brate and O.J. Howard, as the Bucs do what they need to do on both sides of the ball to win.
Matera’s Score Prediction: Bucs 33, Falcons 20
Matera’s Pick-To-Click: ILB Devin White
Matera’s Season Record: 7-8