The 1-7 Buccaneers are still searching for their first home win over a struggling Atlanta Falcons team with a 2-5 record that has lost five straight since defeating Tampa Bay, 56-14, in Week 3. What are the six things PewterReport.com’s Scott Reynolds is looking for in Tampa Bay’s upcoming game? Find out right here in SR’s Pick 6.
Who: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons
Where: Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, Fla.
When: 1:00 p.m. ET – FOX
Last meeting: Falcons beat the Buccaneers, 56-14, at Atlanta in Week 3
Series notes: Bucs and Falcons are 21-21 all-time
1. MAGIC FROM McCOWN
The reason why Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith made the switch at quarterback to bench Mike Glennon and go back to Josh McCown was because the offense needs a spark. Smith is hoping that a more veteran signal caller can be the magic man this team needs to get its first home win this season. What does that entail? It means McCown needs to stop making foolish decisions with the ball that have led to four interceptions under duress, including a pick-six at Atlanta the first time around in Week 3.
But the Bucs need McCown to do more than just avoid mistakes. Tampa Bay needs him to make some the plays that Glennon was missing last week and in other games by finding open receivers and being more accurate in the passing game. McCown also needs to scramble for first down opportunities when they present themselves. Too often Glennon would come up a yard short in those situations, and that killed drives and scoring opportunities. McCown has had a great week of practice and the team is confident he can be more relaxed and deliver, but the Falcons defense will also be confident thanks to the experience of a 56-14 win.
2. AIR IT OUT AGAINST ATLANTA
Tampa Bay’s passing game features two 6-foot-5, 230-pound receivers in Vincent Jackson and emerging star Mike Evans, who is coming off a career-best seven-catch, 124-yard, two-touchdown performance last week at Cleveland. Atlanta has struggled in pass defense, evidenced by the Falcons allowing 280.8 yards per game, which ranks 30th in the NFL. McCown must take advantage of the Bucs’ height advantage and throw perfectly timed jump balls to Tampa Bay’s twin towers.
Second-year cornerback Desmond Trufant doesn’t have an interception this season and has just two in his career, which is disappointing. However, fellow second-year corner Robert Alford has been more opportunistic with five career picks, including two INTs this season. McCown needs to find the right matchup at the right time and exploit it in order for the Bucs to have success against the Falcons secondary.
3. CB RESERVES MUST RISE UP
Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner has been a disappointment this season in giving up at least four touchdowns and only recording one interception. A hamstring injury may sideline Tampa Bay’s most veteran cornerback this week, and that’s troubling because the Falcons have two dangerous receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones. The Bucs could most likely match up 6-foot-2 cornerback Johnthan Banks on Jones, but he doesn’t have the speed to keep up with the 6-foot-4 receiver.
Crezdon Butler and Brandon Dixon have good size, but lack experience. They will play if Verner can’t go, which puts the Bucs’ secondary at a distinct disadvantage. Jones has had a sub-par year and hasn’t scored a touchdown since scoring two against Tampa Bay in Week 3. The Falcons need to pass the ball successfully to win and have the edge in terms of size, speed, experience and playmaking ability.
4. BUCCANEERS MUST RUN TO WIN
Tampa Bay did a great job of establishing the ground game in the first half last week against Cleveland as Bobby Rainey had 80 yards after the first two quarters. However, the Bucs strayed from the ground game in the second half and that can’t happen again. Tampa Bay should be able to run Rainey, who had two fumbles in Atlanta in Week 3, and have success against the Falcons’ porous run defense, which ranks 25th in the NFL.
Rookie Charles Sims is expected to make his NFL debut on Sunday and split carries with Rainey. Sims has good size, speed, vision and great acceleration that can help the Buccaneers on the ground and through the air, as he is also a gifted receiver. Tampa Bay offensive play-caller Marcus Arroyo has to make a game-long commitment to the running game to create play-action passing opportunities for McCown and to try to control the clock against Atlanta and keep the ball out of Matt Ryan’s hands.
5. BUCS MUST MAKE RYAN FEEL THE HEAT
Tampa Bay has been tweaking its pass rush personnel over the past few weeks and has found some success. The Bucs have been incorporating speed rusher Jacquies Smith more on passing downs and he has come through with several QB pressures, a batted pass and his first NFL sack, which came last week at Cleveland. Smith can rush from either the left or the right side, and that allows left end Will Gholston to move inside to defensive tackle to team with Gerald McCoy on pass downs, which brings size, speed and power to the interior of Tampa Bay’s defensive line.
McCoy has five sacks on the season to lead the Bucs, including three in the last two games, and must continue to pile up quarterback captures. Falcons QB Matt Ryan can be very effective when he has time to throw, but several season-ending injuries to Atlanta’s offensive line have left Ryan unprotected. The Falcons are down to their third center and the Buccaneers need to win the battle of the trenches against Atlanta and get to Ryan.
6. DON’T LET HESTER WIN IT IN THE END
The Falcons have proven that they collapse and fold in the fourth quarter. Atlanta’s defense ranks last in fourth quarter points allowed, and the Falcons offense ranks 31st. If the Buccaneers can keep it close in the fourth quarter – as opposed to being blown out in Week 3 – they have a good chance of winning on Sunday. However, the wild card could be on special teams, which is an area Tampa Bay has failed miserably in this season.
In two games, including last week at Cleveland, the Bucs have allowed a blocked punt and a blocked field goal on the same day, which is absurd. Even if Tampa Bay takes control the game in the fourth quarter offensively or defensively, a blocked kick or punt by Atlanta could give the visitors to Raymond James Stadium momentum, and so could a big return from Devin Hester, who returned a punt for a touchdown against the Bucs in Week 3. Tampa Bay would be incredibly stupid to even kick or punt to Hester and give him an opportunity to make a game-changing return.
SR’s Prediction: Falcons 27, Buccaneers 24
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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 enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
I see it worse than this scoring prediction. Bucs 20; Falcons 34. I might eat my words, but I don’t believe in McCown; haven’t since I saw him Tampa Stadium back in August. The only saving grace might be the Falcons have a beat up offensive line and Ryan may not be as effective because of it. It won’t be our Defense that does it. This is our last chance for a win.
Until I see some consistency on DL from someone not named Gerald McCoy, I refuse to believe they have the advantage on anything.
Is this the prediction article? PR has neglected to post the prediction contest for several weeks.
In my expert opinion, Bucs 28, ATL 17.
Size XL t-shirt if I win.
One winner per season. Sorry Morgan.
And you are wrong Morgan. Several weeks? How about one week, last week. I was in Cleveland and did forget to post the blog, but there has been one every week
31-10 Falcons. McCown stinks. We couldn’t beat Vikings at home with two weeks to prepare don’t see them beating Falcons.
Funny how we’re thinking the Bucs might take advantage of some of the Falcon’s poor rankings when our mighty Bucs rank even lower. I’m not going to assume that just because the Falcons had virtually everything go in their favor in the last game that the same thing is going to happen again. That blowout wasn’t a true representation of either team today. It’s all about attitude. In each of the two games when we played the role of the Washington Generals playing the Harlem Globetrotters; our players quite simply were in disbelief and did little to stop the can of whoop a$$ that got opened on them. The Falcons and Matt Ryan, like the Saints and Drew Brees are more mortal when they leave their little domes. For once, this season I’d like to exit the stadium without having to dodge the opponent’s fans cheering and chest-bumping each other. Our once loyal fans have become apathetic and find it easier to just sell their tickets to the visitors. I’m hoping the return of McCown with his ability to run a little to actually pick up a first down, along with the debut of Charles Sims can put a few more points on the board to make up for our weakened secondary and poor drops into coverage by Mason Foster. As Paul McCartney would say to #59, “Get back Loretta!”
As a season tkt holder ,lets hope the bucs don’t win this game . Bucs need a top pick to draft a qb so why want them to win now?
Nothing from nothing leaves nothing. However this turns out, I will have something to be happy about!
The only meaningful changes we have since last getting steamrolled by the Failcons are all negative (minus 4 starters)….now admittedly those guys played more like 3rd stringers but how can anyone honestly expect the Bucs to play any better – it’s the same garbage we’re going to trot out there today – why should we expect a different result????
Magic from Mc Cown. For God sake, just stop Scott.
After watch Mariota and Winston last night I still don’t know if they are worth a top 5 spot in the draft.
Not sure what game you were watching Horse, but Mariota looked great last night. I say that as someone who has not been a big fan. I watched him play in high school here in Hawaii and was not impressed. But I was last night.
Living here in Montana, I get to watch a lot of PAC 12 games, and what I saw last night in the game Oregon and Utah. It was the Mariota show, he didn’t get a lot of help from his receivers but he made alot of plays with his legs. By the way the Utah front four is one of the best in the nation.
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