Bucs welcome Jon Gruden back to Raymond James Stadium to induct him into the Ring of Honor. Defense looks to contain Julio Jones and the rest of the Atlanta Falcons offense.
The Bucs lost at the gun to the Detroit Lions, their second heartbreaking defeat in as many weeks. The Falcons are coming off an emotional Thursday night win against the New Orleans Saints.
Keys to the Game:
This first one should be a no brainer. Find a way to slow down Julio Jones. Last time these two teams played back in Week 12, Jones went off on the Bucs defense. Jones finished that game with 253 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Sorry for the reminder, Bucs fans. Bucs Defensive Coordinator, Mike Smith, threw every possible combination he could at Jones to try and slow him down, yet nothing worked. Tampa would be wise to double and possibly even triple team Jones and take your chances on letting the Falcons other receivers beat you.
The Bucs defensive line is going to have its’ hands full with one of the better offensive lines in the league. It’s no secret that Gerald McCoy is the biggest play maker on the defensive line and his absence will hurt, a lot, if he can’t go on Monday night. The good news for Tampa is that Atlanta might be without one of their premier Running Backs. Tevin Coleman went out of last Thursday’s game against the Saints with a concussion and still remains in the leagues concussion protocol.
Tampa must find a way to match score-for-score with the Falcons.
It’s no secret that the Falcons offense is not the same as it was in 2016. That doesn’t mean that they can’t score points in bunches, however. They have shown this season that they are capable of big scoring outbursts. Jameis Winston and company have to keep pace.
Even though they haven’t been able to connect much this year, Winston and DeSean Jackson have to find a way to connect on the deep ball. The timing just doesn’t seem to be there. Atlanta’s defense hasn’t given up many big plays in the passing game, but that doesn’t mean you don’t take your shots, right?
Where the Falcons defense has had their problems this year is stopping the run. They’re a middle of the road team in that category for 2017. It’s unclear if Peyton Barber, or Doug Martin will be the starter this week, but whoever it is should get a hefty amount of carries. Lately, Barber has shown himself to be the better of the two RB’s. As a comparison, last week against the Lions, Martin carried the ball 10 times for only 26 yards. Barber, on the other hand, carried the ball 12 times for 58 yards. Almost identical touches, but more than double the production. Peyton Barber is hungry, so why not feed him?
Raymond James Stadium is going to be a wild scene on Monday night. There’s no doubt about that. Jon Gruden still holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Tampa. He brought the Bucs their only Super Bowl title. There are many people to this day that want to see him return to the Bay Area if Head Coach, Dirk Koetter, is not retained next season.
For that reason the Bucs and their fans will be hyped. It’s like this week will be the Bucs Super Bowl. We already know that the playoffs are out, so why not try to take out a division rival. Plus, Atlanta has been known to play down to their competition at times. The Falcons have a lot on the line moving forward. They very well could be looking ahead to their matchups against the Panthers and the Saints in the coming weeks. This could be great news for the Bucs.
Make no mistake. This game is going to be close. Really close. Division games usually are. What it really all comes down to though is talent. Who has the most talent on their roster? Right now, it’s got to be the Falcons. Tampa’s defense is down too many pieces and the Falcons will exploit that. If Winston can limit his mistakes these two offenses are going to be neck and neck. Ultimately, Atlanta’s defense makes just enough plays to pull out the close victory on Monday night, spoiling the return of “Chucky” to Ray Jay.
Final Score: Falcons win 27-24
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