The Buccaneers coming off a 31-29 win over Dallas to lick off the 2021 season, will host the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday in their first division game.
The Falcons were embarrassed by the Philadelphia Eagles at home 32-6. That being the case, they will be looking to improve on both sides of the ball against the Super Bowl Champions.
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The Falcons are coming off a 4-12 season. However, they have a new head coach in Arthur Smith. Smith was the offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans during the 2020 season, where he had success with a strong running game powered by Derrick Henry.
The Falcons are rebuilding. You can’t deny that. They will battle Carolina for last place this year in the division, as the Falcons will have trouble matching last year’s four wins.
The Falcons traded future Hall of Fame wide receiver Julio Jones to the Titans in the off-season as Calvin Ridley becomes the number one receiver for the Falcons.
Atlanta added another nice piece to the offense by drafting Florida tight end Kyle Pitts with the fifth pick in the first round. Pitts did not overwhelm in his debut as he had four catches for 31 yards.
The Falcons have Matt Ryan back at quarterback. With a so-so offensive line, Ryan may be running for his life a lot this season.
Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson will be the primary running backs for the Falcons. They had a decent debut on Sunday as they ran for 124 yards against the Eagles. That is an improvement from the 95 yards per game the Falcons averaged last year running the ball.
The Buccaneer duo of Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette was only able to put up 52 yards against the Cowboy’s defense. The Falcon’s run defense was horrid against the eagles giving up 173 yards on the ground.
The Bucs should look to establish the run early in this game. Ronald Jones needs to build some confidence after his fumble against the Cowboys. He will be the starter against the Falcons.
It’s not just the run game. Overall the Falcons defense just isn’t very good. Last week, they gave up 434 yards to the Eagles, while Tom Brady and company put up 431 yards against a much better Dallas defense.
The Falcons brought in long-time defensive guru Dean Pees to improve the defense. Subsequently, one of the changes Pees initiated was switching to a 3-4 defense to get more pressure on the quarterback.
The Buccaneers swept Atlanta last year, winning 44-27 in the season finale at Raymond James Stadium.
The Buccaneers have gone 8-0 in their last eight games and have averaged over 30 points a game. The Bucs can set a new NFL record on Sunday. If they score 30 or more points, that will be the ninth game in a row, that they have scored 30 or more points, which would be a new NFL record.
After missing the first game with a hamstring injury, the Bucs secondary will get Jordan Whitehead back at safety. However, Sean Murphy-Bunting is out and will miss the game with an elbow injury he suffered in the Dallas game. Ross Cockrell will see more playing time in Murphy-Bunting’s absence.
Here are three things I want to see from the Bucs against the Falcons.
–Get the run game going.
There is no excuse not to get over 100 yards against this porous Atlanta run defense. The Eagles ran for 173 yards against this defense, and I don’t see a Ronald Jones or Leonard Fournette standing on their sideline. The Bucs have to make it focus this week to run the ball.
–Better play from the secondary.
I know the loss of Murphy-Bunting is tough, but Coach Arians always talks about the next man up. Now is that time. There is plenty of talent in Mike Edwards, Carlton Davis, Jordan Whitehead, and Ross Cockrell.
The Eagle’s defense which is not nearly as good as the Bucs defense held the Falcons to six points. This is the game that the secondary has to shine and play better.
–Last but not least, continued good play from the offensive line.
The guys up front did an excellent job in the pass blocking game as they kept the Dallas pass rush off of Tom Brady. Brady was hurried a few times against the Cowboys but not sacked. They kept his jersey clean. But the run blocking has to get better.
The Bucs won’t reach their post-season goals by averaging 52 yards a game on the ground. Look for a much better effort in the run game against the Falcons.
The Buccaneers are 12.5 point favorites in the game, and I see no reason the Bucs won’t cover the spread. Indeed, this should be an easy win for the Bucs.
The final score should be 33-13 Tampa Bay as the Bucs move out to 2-0 on the season.