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SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL.

FAB 1. Bucs At Falcons Looks Like A Shootout

Tampa Bay’s first NFC South game ended with the Bucs on top of the Saints, 48-40, in a Week 1 donnybrook in New Orleans.

Atlanta’s first divisional match-ups included a wild 31-24 home win over Carolina in Week 2, and an even wilder 43-37 overtime loss to New Orleans at home in Week 3.

Should we expect anything less than a high-scoring shootout between the Falcons and the Buccaneers on Sunday? Not if we are to believe the tale of the tape between the two teams.

Both the Falcons and the Bucs have high-scoring offenses that have gained a bunch of yards – especially through the air – and injury-depleted defenses that have given up a bunch of yards and points.

Let’s take a look at the Falcons offense versus the Bucs defense. Atlanta’s offense ranks 13th in total offense, averaging 393.4 yards per game, and ninth in scoring with 26.6 points per game. The Falcons have the ninth-ranked passing attack with 304.2 yards per game and their ground game ranks 26th, averaging 89.2 yards per game. Atlanta is second in the NFL in third down conversions at 47 percent.

Tampa Bay’s defense ranks 31st with 445.8 yards allowed per game, and is surrendering 34.8 points per game. The Bucs have the league’s worst pass defense, allowing 358 yards per game, and their run defense ranks fourth, allowing just 87.8 yards per game on the ground. Tampa Bay’s third down defense is allowing opponents to convert 37 percent, which ranks 14th in the league.

So what will the Falcons do? Throw the ball an awful lot at Tampa Bay’s young and inexperienced secondary, which will start three rookies in cornerbacks Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart and strong safety Jordan Whitehead.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has completed 125-of-183 passing (68.3 percent) for 1,601 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions this year. His top three receivers are – no surprise – Pro Bowler Julio Jones, who leads the Falcons with 34 catches for 564 yards (16.6 avg.) and no TDs, rookie Calvin Ridley, the team’s first-round pick, who has 19 catches for 302 yards (15.9 avg.) and a team-high six touchdowns, and veteran Mohamed Sanu, who had 20 catches for 257 yards (12.9 avg.) and two touchdowns.

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, who will be making his first start of the year on Sunday, is 2-0 in Atlanta, which is a little over two and a half hours away from his hometown of Bessemer, Ala. Tampa Bay has the second-ranked offense, averaging 432.8 yards per game, and the top-ranked passing attack, averaging 363.2 yards per game. The Bucs have struggled running the ball, and rank 30th in the league with just 69.5 yards per game, but Tampa Bay has become a pass-first team that is averaging 28 points per game, which ranks sixth in the league.

Bucs TE Cameron Brate - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs TE Cameron Brate – Photo by: Getty Images

The Bucs hope to take advantage of an injury-depleted Falcons defense that is missing both starting safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen, and middle linebacker Deion Jones – all of whom are on injured reserve. As a result, Atlanta ranks 28th in the NFL, allowing an average of 398.6 yards per game, in addition to having the 23rd ranked pass defense, surrendering an average of 277.2 yards per game. Look for tight end Cameron Brate to work the seam and attack the middle of the field, in addition to DeSean Jackson running deep post patterns to take advantage of Atlanta’s injuries in the middle of the field.

If the Bucs are going to get their stagnant running game going, it may happen in Atlanta against the league’s 25th-ranked rush defense, allowing an average of 121.4 yards per game. The Falcons have really struggled on third down, and have the worst ranking, allowing opponents to convert 55 percent of their opportunities. The Bucs offense has been good on third down this year, converting at a 41 percent clip.

Yet Atlanta isn’t as bad as its 1-4 record would indicate.

18-12 loss at Philadelphia (3-3)
31-24 win vs. Carolina (3-1)
43-37 OT loss vs. New Orleans (4-1)
37-36 loss vs. Cincinnati (4-1)
41-17 loss at Pittsburgh (2-2-1)

After a six-point road loss to the defending NFL Super Bowl champions in Philadelphia, the Falcons handed the Panthers their only loss of the season before falling in overtime to the Saints, the defending NFC South champions. After that defeat, the Falcons lost rare, back-to-back home games with a one-point loss to Cincinnati, followed by getting demolished at Pittsburgh.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan - Photo by: Getty Images
Falcons QB Matt Ryan – Photo by: Getty Images

The Falcons are typically a pretty good home team, and both of their last losses came by a combined seven points.

The Bucs are 1-3 under head coach Dirk Koetter, losing the last three games, and Ryan has had his way against Mike Smith’s defense.

Ryan vs. Bucs 2016-17
2016: 31-24 Bucs Win – 27-of-39 passing (69.2%) for 334 yards with 2 TDs, no INTs
2016: 43-28 Falcons Win – 25-of-34 passing (73.5%) for 344 yards with 4 TDs, no INTs
2017: 34-20 Falcons Win – 26-of-35 passing (74.3%) for 317 yards with 1 TD, no INTs
2017: 24-21 Falcons Win – 17-of-31 passing (54.8%) for 212 yards with 1 TD, no INTs

Over the last four games against Tampa Bay, Jones has 27 catches for 484 yards and four touchdowns, including a 12-catch, 253-yard, four-touchdown performance in a 34-20 win last year at Atlanta.

So after the tale of the tape, who wins this pivotal game? Atlanta seems to have the edge because they’ve had the Bucs’ number over the last three contests, and they are playing at home in a must-win situation at 1-4. The fact that Ryan has thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions against Smith’s defense, and the fact that the Bucs only have one interception through the first four games of the year means that the Winston will have to play perfect football and avoid turnovers.

This game has the makings of a shoot-out that could come down to the last possession or be decided by the turnover margin.

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Next articleTampa Bay at Atlanta Injury Report: 10-12
Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

44 COMMENTS

  1. We are 1-3? 2-2 last time I checked. Lol

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    • Overall against Atlanta, not this season I think that sentence is reading.

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    • Bucs are 2-2 this season – but 1-3 vs. Atlanta under Dirk Koetter as head coach and with Mike Smith as defensive coordinator.

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  2. Don’t mean to sound negative and That’s great about the records with Evans but it would be great if he didn’t have at least one huge easy drop every game too.

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  3. Here is the problem with this statistical match up – the Bucs offense is not the same as it was the first four weeks, there is a different QB. No one knows how Winston will do. Most assume he will do the same or better, but there is a chance he will do worse. Namely, throw more INTs which has been something of an issue for him at times. If he does not the odds are we will see the same or better.

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    • We’ve also seen a couple of o-lines, and a couple Fitzpatricks. Can’t put this all on either QB.

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  4. Dirk is just slow to the draw, he’s a day late and a dollar short for everything. Took him a whole season and strong urging from management to turn over play calling despite the mounds of evidence that his offense wasn’t that good and the overall game management was terrible. It’s taken him 3 seasons and he still can’t see that Mike Smith is either awful or has no idea how to assemble a formidable defense in todays NFL. He says in one breath competition is key and that those who earn playing time will play then rolls Brent Grimes out there to get abused on the heels of an awful preseason and Ryan Smith playing better. He inherits LaVonte who somehow got 6 sacks in a season with Schiano yet he hasn’t amassed 6 sacks in his 3 total years on the job on a team that desperately needs it. So as much as its nice that the players like him it’s ultimately irrelevant considering he’s a bad head coach.

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  5. You play the way you prepare. I saw practice photo’s from yesterday, and the Bucs were outdoors, but are playing in a dome Sunday. Why not practice in that expensive indoor facility the Glazer’s bought you? It’s like needing a screw driver for a job, but using a hammer instead. Should we win the opening toss I hope Koetter doesn’t put his garbage defense on the field first cause we’ll be playing from behind the rest of the day. The Saints took the opening kick off against us, and easily scored. We were lucky to keep pace in that game, but deferring the opening kick didn’t turn out to well against the Bears. Nothing fires up a home crowd more, and a teams defense then taking the opening drive down the field for a score. It’s nice to get the ball to open the second half, but not if you’re down by 30. Koetter needs to put his best unit on the field if possible first, and it certainly isn’t the defense. Keep making the simple easily correctable mistakes, and we’ll continue to lose. Let’s hope we can out score the Falcons. It would be easier if we score first.

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    • Teams who win the toss defer because if your defense gets them off the field you now have an opportunistic advantage to score first in both halves. It’s always worth it to defer. If you put your offense and they go three and out, now you’ve just gave that opportunity to your opponent, and the momentum.

      As far as the coin toss goes against the Bears, Koetter had no idea they would go into the locker room at the half down by 30. I don’t think anyone did. No one will ever know what the halftime score will be at the start of a game. So you can’t use that as a reason why he shouldn’t have deferred.

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  6. The last reason Dirk is terrible is because of what he’s asked Jameis to do since drafting him. Which is run a vertical passing attack with no running game or defense. No young QB in the league has been asked to do more offensively with less. People look at the WRs and TEs and think that his numbers should be better but that has never been how you help young QBs flourish. Dak flourished in Dallas when they ran the ball and consistently controlled the line of scrimmage, his line hasn’t been the same this season and we see how he’s regressed. Goff had Gurley his rookie year and looked absolutely terrible, he got a better HC, they improved the OL and defense and we see how his play has taken off. Mariotta has had more postseason success than Jameis but that’s bc they have a good defense and running game which take the pressure off of him. He’s not dropping back and throwing the ball 35-50 times a game like we have consistently asked him to do pretty much since day 1. Wentz took off after the got a OC that established the run and even they got the ball out of Wentz hand quickly on a lot of the passing concepts. I could go on but you get the point, I agree Jameis makes errant throws and bad reads but I saw Fitz do the exact same thing under duress bc of the strain this offense puts you under as the QB. We heard rave reviews about Godwin last year yet Dirk the OC/HC couldn’t figure out that moving Desean to the slot would allow Godwin to get on the field and give Jameis a bigger weapon on the outside? Monken takes over playcalling them boom Desean is the slot as if some great discovery was made. Dirk is terrible whether the players like him or not.

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    • I agree 💯 percent

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  7. One of my favorite Mike Evans plays was when he out sprinted Marshon Lattimore for a TD at the beginning of the year. Marshon is a good young DB, but he didn’t respect Evans speed. Looks like Evans offseason workouts paid off and Lattimore lay prone on the carpet wondering how he got past him.

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  8. Making game predictions, including predicting the character of a game (offensive shootout, defensive struggle, etc.), is a very good way to look the fool.

    Seriously, how many experts in the media or commenter world predicted that Trubiskey and the Bears would put on an offensive clinic in just the last game we played? Besides nobody in the entire universe.

    I chuckle in thinking about all the times people predicted shootouts, and instead a defensive struggle ensued … and vice versa.

    Our defense has been historically bad all this season .. but nobody can guarantee that they won’t suddenly find their way and completely hogtie the Atlanta offense. Our own offence has been very good to begin but trending downward … does the downward trend continue, or does the offense suddenly go on another tear?

    The point is, nobody knows.

    That’s. Why. We. Play. The. Games.

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    • It’s either going to be a shoot out or a blow out. It will not be a game with offensive ineptitude from both squads. These defenses are too short handed and these offenses are too explosive. It’s pretty straight forward.

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    • The opening line in Vegas for this game had it at a 57 o/u -3.5 Atlanta. That my friend is considered a “shootout” by the foremost experts in the world of sports gambling. And it’s because of people thinking like you that Vegas keeps growing taller and brighter.

      But I like your positive thinking, and I also think to myself, “What if the Bucs figured something out on defense over the bye and come into their own?” This is probably why I do not gamble. It’s hard for me to side with my head and bet against my heart. But it’s possible! Even a blind squirrel finds a nut, and sometimes Vegas pays out big time. However, their lines are usually spot on as they are not in the business of losing to often. This is where a lot of so called “experts” get their ammo to make bold predictions then use stats to solidify their points.

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      • Just a note about Vegas lines. The point is to have 50% of people bet one way and 50% of people bet the other way. When you lay -110 for the over or under, the house gets the 10%. It has less to do with what happens and more to do with perception of the public to bet equally for both sides.

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  9. It will be high scoring. If Bucs can protect we have a chance. O line better play much better Atlanta has decent pass rush even though secondary has issues like ours.

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  10. Think Lovie Smith a few years back on national TV. You’re about to see it again. 56-10 Falcons. This coaching staff has lost this team. It’s over. The season was over before it started. They all need to go!

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    • Slow down there big fella. The team fully supports Koetter. It’s obvious. When players don’t like a coach, they usually are split down the middle and half run their mouth about playing time or play calling or scheme or whatever, while the other half just keep grinding through it.

      Remember Schiano? Toes on the line!! They couldn’t wait to see him gone. Half called him out, half kept quiet. Side note- Personally, I thought Schiano had a chance to get the most out of the defensive core they were building. McCoy and David were never better than they were under Schiano, in my opinion.

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  11. Let me get this sorted in my head a QB with a 114.4 QB rating that in 3.5 Games throw 1356 yards average 387 yards a game with 11 touchdowns is benched for a QB with a lifetime rating of 87%
    and no one on this site other than me questions the total combined intelligence of the management and coaches of this team.
    Will be interested to see how this works out, no defence and QB that average 87% rating that likes to throw ints and likes to fumble when pressured.
    Imagine that !

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    • The correct spelling is “defense” and “offense” (offense misspelled in an earlier post by someone else).

      Man, I’ve said it before, you dudes can’t spell! Even when you probably have a little red squiggly line below a misspelled word pointing out the error for you. I’m not trying to be condescending here, but seriously, it kills the credibility of your post. Whose going to listen to someone who can’t spell elementary grade words?

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      • Just trying to make the world a better place one word at a time. Well, maybe two words in that post!

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      • “Whose” is improperly used in your post about grammar. Proper grammar would be “Who’s” which means “Who is”.

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        • Because it is used in the plural form of asking a question to multiple people, ‘whose’ is acceptable grammar and usage here.

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      • Dude, you ARE condescending, and you are a liar in claiming that is not your intent to be a condescending dick when you clearly revel in being a condescending douchebag.

        As for spelling, asswipe, comments are comments and not paid publications, and apparently you are too stupid to notice that there are no red squiggly line spell checkers in the comment generator on this website.

        Finally, dickwad, if you are going to post a stupid condescending rant about other commenters not spelling every word correctly, then don’t stupidly make a far dumber grammatical error by using “whose” when you should have written “who’s”, dumbass

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        • So your going to result to name calling?

          I used to think that most posters here were adults, but clearly that is not the case. In which, most adults should know how to spell elementary grade words, and then not result to name calling when someone tries to help out with their spelling.

          Just for the record, the red squiggly line comes from your own browser, not the website. Browsers started using them like over 10 years ago.

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    • It’s not that you’re the only one BucAssBob. Its just not logical to leave Fitz in there. Fitz is gone after this year. Jameis may or may not be gone after NEXT year. This is the year they have to figure it out with him. He was drafted #1 overall. He will be the future or they’ll likely all be gone.

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  12. So if I am the Falcons offense I am going to throw short passes until the blitz makes me throw deeper.
    So if I’m the Falcons defense I am respecting Winston’s mobility and pressing the WR’s.

    What do I expect from the Bucs defense; not reacting fast enough to what they are doing in order to change the vanilla scheme.
    What do I expect from Buc’s offense; score 42-45 points so we can win! Go Bucs!

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    • Flawed thinking Horse. Short, quick passes beat the blitz every time. Have you ever noticed how lineman and blitzers are given a free run on a screen pass? Have you heard of hot routes? The way to beat the short dink and dunk game is by NOT BLITZING. Blitzes only work to stop the intermediate and long passing plays, not the short or quick ones.

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  13. Dude, when you have the worst defense in the league you should keep them off the field as much as possible. Ever hear the expression, put your best foot forward? When you continually give up a score deferring the kick off putting your offense in a hole to start a game, maybe you should rethink your strategy.

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    • Evans all day long. Donald was small for a DT and it wasn’t a sure thing. Mike Evans? He was a sure thing.

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  14. Evans is great. However, I like to start a poll with the following question?

    1) Bucs drafting Evans at #7
    2) Rams drafting Aaron Donald at #13

    Which one would you prefer?

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    • What is your opinion PR?

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      • That’s really tough because I could see both players in the Hall of Fame. I know Mike and have covered him for five years. It’s hard for me to pick against the guy. I love him. But WRs are easier to find than dominant DTs are. I can’t bring my fingers to type it, though …

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    • Odell Beckham at 12th pick same ?

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      • Yes. My opinion you start building from the inside then out not withstanding franchise QB. That means you draft DL, OL. You can WRs later in the draft like Michael Thomas and Chris Godwin in the third round. You typically don’t find the Aaron Donalds of the world outside the first round.

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        • So you support Vita Vea over Derwin James? That’s building inside out.
          Also, you would pass on Julio Jones (#6 overall) to take Nick Fairly(next DT available was taken #13 overall)?

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          • Time will tell. There are exceptions to every rule. Who would you pick over Aaron Donald or Warren Sapp, not withstanding a franchise QB?

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          • How about Khalil Mack? That is building inside out. Definitely pick him over Derwin James.

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        • Name me a great WR: Jones, AB, Evans, even Jerry Rice. I will still pick Sapp, Donald, Mack every day of the week.

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  15. Surferdudes, I agree with somewhat but only because we really don’t have a defense. We have 7 guys running into each other in the back end. Dude is right and analytics support his statement.
    Unfortunately, analytics doesn’t factor in our defense.
    I hope they bring Noah Spence out of mothballs this week and use him in some imainative ways. I know, I know, but I can hope. Blitz him as a standup LB from the end, blitz him up the middle. Run some stunts and crosses try a safety or CB blitz for gods sake but please just do something different.
    The Steelers beat the Falcons by putting pressure on Ryan from different parts of the field. Should we do something unusual and try the same thing.

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  16. It was only 2 seasons ago that our defense played horribly, then came back after the bye and had turned the corner. We can all only hope this is the case this year. If not…I foresee screaming and celebrating on offense, then trying not to throw the controller at my screen on defense.

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    • If you look at both teams defensively, we both have bad secondarys. The key will be the run game as Atlanta is also bad against the run, while we have been pretty stout over the first 4 games. We also look to be getting Beau Allen back in addition to getting Vita back last week, which should make for an even better run defense.

      It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that the key for us will be getting our own run game going and keeping their offense off the field. Unfortunately, I’ll be playing Jameis, DJax, and Sanu in fantasy this week so I’ll be torn about running or passing the whole game.

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  17. Great comments, guys! Enjoyed reading them – as always!

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