The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will continue their push for a spot in the NFL playoffs Sunday afternoon when they travel to Atlanta for an NFC South showdown with the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the final home game of the 2020 season.
Atlanta Falcons leads the all-time series between the two teams, 28-25, and has won six of the past seven matchups, including a 28-22 overtime win in Week 17 of the 2019 season. Deion Jones intercepted Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston on the first play of overtime and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown to give the Falcons the victory.
If there’s a trap game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers down the homestretch of the 2020 regular season, this is it.
Sunday’s road trip to face the Atlanta Falcons will test the mental toughness of the Bucs, a team that’s still trying to figure out who they are, 15 weeks into the Tom Brady era.
HOW TO WATCH
What: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons
- When: Sunday, Dec. 20, 1 p.m. ET
- Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga.
- TV: FOX
- Live Stream: WATCH FREE HERE
Atlanta was close but no cigar last week as they fell 20-17 to the Los Angeles Chargers. The loss was just more heartbreak for Atlanta, who fell 33-30 when the teams previously met in October of 2016. QB Matt Ryan had a memorable game, but not in the way you want to be remembered: despite one touchdown, he threw three interceptions. Ryan ended up with a passer rating of 116.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay had a touchdown and change to spare in a 26-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings last week. The team accrued 17 points in the first half and coasted on those for the win. No one had a standout game offensively for the Buccaneers, but they got scores from RB Ronald Jones, TE Rob Gronkowski, and WR Scott Miller. QB Tom Brady ended up with a passer rating of 165.50.
Tampa Bay’s defense was a presence, as it embarrassed Minnesota’s offensive line to sack QB Kirk Cousins six times for a total loss of 52 yards. Leading the way was LB Shaquil Barrett and his two sacks. Barrett now has eight sacks through 13 games.
Atlanta is expected to lose this next one by 6. Their home turf has been no bettor’s paradise, as they’ve failed to beat the spread in five of their seven home games.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Sunday’s matchup will feature a Falcons offense that pushes the ball down the field and a Buccaneers defense that limits opponents’ explosive plays. Atlanta’s offense has completed 86 explosive passes (16+ yards) this season, tied for the most (86 in 2016) through the first 13 games of a season in franchise history and the second-most in the NFL this year. Only Kansas City (91) has more. The Buccaneers defense has limited opponents to an average of 5.1 explosive plays per game this season, the third-fewest in the NFL. Only the Los Angeles Rams (4.4) and the Saints (4.8) allow fewer per game.
The Bucs came out of their late bye week with a bounce-back win at home against the Minnesota Vikings, a victory that gave them some valuable breathing room in the NFC wild card race with three games remaining. That win ended a two-game losing streak, the only one the Bucs have had so far this season, and should give them confidence heading into a trio of games against teams with losing records.
Yes, the Falcons are long gone from the playoff race, but they’ve been playing some spirited football under interim head coach Raheem Morris, who was head coach in Tampa Bay for three seasons. Julio Jones is out, but Matt Ryan still has some explosive playmakers that can challenge the Bucs, and their defense has some impressive athletes.
This game is about the Bucs proving they’re not anywhere near the same level as a team like the Falcons, and that means not letting the Dirty Birds surprise them. Tampa Bay will have to avoid mental mistakes and self-inflicted errors if they want to avoid a crushing loss to a division rival.