PewterReport.com Publisher and Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds
Tampa Bay has won two games in a row for the first time all season – and won its first game on the road in 2017 last week in Miami – but the winning streak stops in Atlanta. The reason? The 6-4 Falcons have more to play for than the 4-6 Buccaneers do. The NFC South is as rugged as ever this year and last year’s division champion, Atlanta, is currently in third place behind 8-2 New Orleans and 7-3 Carolina. This is a home game for the Falcons and a division win they’ll need to prevent falling back in the playoff hunt.

Ryan Fitzpatrick gets his third start at quarterback for the injured Jameis Winston and is coming off a good game in Miami with two touchdown passes. But the Bucs still don’t have any running game, evidenced by the fact that Doug Martin rushed for just 38 yards on 19 carries (2.0 avg.). If Atlanta is able to keep Tampa Bay’s running game grounded, it has the ability to rush the passer even better than Miami did last week. Former Bucs defensive end Adrian Clayborn has eight sacks, and the athletic Vic Beasley, Jr. has four along with Brooks Reed.

The game plan for the Bucs needs to be to get the ball out of Fitzpatrick’s hands quickly and into the hands of tight ends O.J. Howard and Cam Brate and receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. The longer he holds on to the ball the greater the chance for a sack-fumble or a costly interception.

Defensively, the Bucs need to generate more pass rush and force quarterback Matt Ryan into mistakes. Ryan has already thrown eight interceptions this year after throwing only seven all of last year when he was the NFL’s MVP in leading Atlanta to the Super Bowl. Gerald McCoy had Tampa Bay’s lone sack in Miami last week and the Bucs have to do a better job of getting the quarterback on the ground.

Wide receiver Julio Jones is looking for a breakout game as he only has 54 catches for 786 yards and one touchdown this year. He may get it facing the Bucs secondary. Although the Bucs picked off Jay Cutler three times before he left the game with a concussion last week in Miami, backup Matt Moore came in and passed for 282 yards in basically a half with Kenny Stills catching seven passes for 180 yards and a 61-yard touchdown, and Jarvis Landry contributing 95 yards and a touchdown on six catches.

Robert McClain played well at times in the slot for the injured Vernon Hargreaves, who is out again with a hamstring, but Ryan Smith and Brent Grimes surrendered a lot of yards and big plays. Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper, Taylor Gabriel and Justin Hardy are all capable receivers, as is running back Tevin Coleman out of the backfield. Coleman will start in place of the injured Devonta Freeman and could have a big day on the ground and through the air.
Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Falcons Win 38-20
Reynolds’ Pick To Click: LB Kwon Alexander

PewterReport.com Editor and Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
Well, we kind of left this team dead in the water a couple weeks ago, and all they have done is put together two straight wins and now sit at 4-6 with a chance to get back in the playoff race. The problem is the Falcons are not the Jets or the Dolphins. On paper this doesn’t look like a game the Bucs really have any business even being in. But for some reason I think the Bucs could come back from Atlanta with a win. Perhaps I am still overdosing on too much tryptophan from the insane amounts of turkey I ate on Thanksgiving. But I am just feeling it for whatever reason.

I like to believe Mike Smith facing his former team is an advantage for the Bucs. Who knows Matt Ryan and Julio Jones better? Plus, despite Smith being one of the nicest guys you will ever meet, even the jovial grandpa type has a bit of nasty in him, and would love to stick it to Arthur Blanks. Trust me.

Will it happen? I can’t say for sure, however, with a few bounces going the right way and the Bucs players understanding that one more loss and they can pretty much forget about the postseason, I think it will much closer than most people think. And remember, Dirk Koetter got his walking papers from the Falcons the same day Smith did. Revenge is a great motivator.

For the Bucs to win they will have to figure out a way to run the football. Doug Martin doesn’t have to run for 200 yards, but the run game can’t average 2.9 and 2.2 yard a carry as they have the last two weeks. If Ryan Fitzpatrick can play another mistake free game like he did in Miami, and get the ball in the hands of DeSean Jackson is space and let him turn on the jets on the new turf in Atlanta, the Bucs can win.

Atlanta is coming off a hard fought, physical cross country Monday Nigh Football game against the Seahawks, and have had a shorter recovery time. The Bucs can take advantage of this. Plus the Falcons just aren’t a great football team. Good yes. Great? No.

I certainly wouldn’t bet a penny on the Bucs, but this feature isn’t about gambling. Give me the Bucs on a late field goal by Pat Murray and a win-preserving interception by Brent Grimes for the close victory.
Cook’s score prediction: Bucs win 27-24
Cook’s pick to click: WR DeSean Jackson

PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Trevor Sikkema
The Bucs players were right this week when they said that division games don’t just count for one win or loss in the standings – it’s more like they count for one and a half.

Two week ago the Bucs held the No. 4 overall draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Now, after two wins, their record is 4-6 and they’re currently slotted for the 15th overall pick. That 4-6 record is still last in the division, but with the NFC a top-heavy conference this year, the wild card is shockingly still in play for this Buccaneers team.

If there is to be a miracle finish to the playoffs, a win on Sunday against the Falcons is a must. It is likely that the Saints are going to win the NFC South, and looking around the rest of the league, the Panthers will likely get the first wild card spot, if things hold up like they are now. However, by beating the Falcons on Sunday, as well as beating them when they face off again in Tampa Bay, the Bucs would own the tiebreaker against them and would likely be right where the Falcons would finish record wise.

That’s all just setting things up in the realm of what could possibly be – the reality will likely be very different. Though quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has this Bucs team on a two-game winning streak, their opponents during that time weren’t exactly juggernauts in the Jets and the Dolphins. The Bucs still have a shaky pass rush, and on the other side, their offensive line still can’t run block – thus the Bucs struggling to control the clock and pace of games. Now throw in that defensive end Robert Ayers and offensive guard Evans Smith are both going to miss the game for Tampa Bay due to concussions and both sides of the trenches take a hit when they couldn’t afford to at all.

The Falcons, though they’ve dropped some curious games this season and have had their fair share of self-inflicted offensive deficiencies, picked up a nice win in Seattle last week and appeared to have their talented roster back on the right track, now at a 6-4 record. A win for them this week keeps them in contention to catch Carolina for a wild card spot. They’ll be without their starting running back Devonta Freeman, but backup running back Tevin Coleman is just as dangerous, so don’t expect a dip in production.

This is a matchup between two very talented rosters, but one has been much better coached to this point, and for that, I have to go with the Falcons. In order for the Bucs to win, they’d have to show execution on both sides of the ball (specifically on the offensive and defensive lines) that we have not season much of this season.
Sikkema’s score prediction: Falcons win 34-13
Sikkema’s pick to click: RB Doug Martin

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About the Author: Mark Cook

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at mark@pewterreport.com
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3 years ago

I think this game is going to be closer then people think. Although, the Falcons still end up with a win . I hope im wrong but im going with 26-23 falcons. go bucs!

3 years ago

This is going to be a blowout by Atlanta.
Bucs 13 – Falcons 41. The honeymoon will officially be over.

3 years ago

I have feeling Bucs will play hard on Sunday I give them a chance, Bucs been losing due to Winston inconsistency and not controlling game clock. Fitz although not a premiere QB he is stable and does a better job keeping the defence off the field, Bucs with Fitz are better than there record, Atlanta has some struggles of there own, I am hoping for a win.
Keep the defence off the field for more than 30 minutes they can perform well. Bucs will need more than 24 points to win.

Reply to  Mike.Seven
3 years ago

I agree on the Bucs being a better team with Fitz under center but still think we get blown out tomorrow.

3 years ago

Agree with Horse. Atlanta 37-14

3 years ago

Two wins against hapless teams, and some think the Bucs are better with Fitz under center? It’s just a matter of time before the Fitz magic turns tragic. This is that time. Talk about revenge, watch out behind you Fitz, Clayborn is going against D. Smith. 31 to 10, click to pick, no one.