The Buccaneers will host the Falcons as their first divisional opponent of 2021 in Week Two in their second-consecutive home game. Tampa Bay is also on a few more days rest thanks to playing in the NFL's Kickoff game. That was of course thanks to that Super Bowl championship they won last season.
They have thoroughly moved on from that – as have the stadium banners, which if you're coming to the game no longer don the Super Bowl Champion moniker. The actual banner has been raised inside the stadium and now, the Bucs aim to continue what could be a 10-game win streak. More on that in a little.
The team that the Bucs will see inside Raymond James Stadium will be different than the one they saw in Week 17 of last year. The Falcons fired Head Coach Dan Quinn and hired former Tennessee Offensive Coordinator Arthur Smith. He's an offensive minded head coach that brings with him Dean Pees as his defensive coordinator – a coordinator that Bucs quarterback Tom Brady is very familiar with from when they were both with the Patriots from 2004-2009.
But even with the new systems, some of the personnel remains intact. While you're watching for the differences in this Atlanta team, watch for the following Buccaneers as they aim to start their season 2-0.
1. WR Mike Evans
This is an opponent Evans is obviously extremely familiar with. He also happens to be extremely familiar with success against them. In 13 regular season games against Atlanta, Evans has found the end zone eight times (out of 69 – nice – total receptions) and averages 81.7 yards per game with an even more impressive 15.4 yards per reception. In Week 14 of last season, Evans went off, catching six of seven passes for 110 yards. Two weeks later, he broke the 1,000-yard mark for the seventh-consecutive season to start his career, thereby establishing a new league record. He was infamously injured on the very next play, which should have been a touchdown. But all's well that ends well because he returned not even a week later for the Wildcard Round against Washington, where the Bucs eked out their first of four postseason victories to capture the Lombardi.
2. QB Tom Brady
Speaking of success against the Falcons… (don't say it, don't say it, don't say it) there isn't a more successful quarterback against Atlanta than Brady. That's not hyperbole either. The 22-year veteran owns the best quarterback win-loss record against the Falcons with a perfect 8-0 tally. His Week 1 performance that earned him FedEx Air Player of the Week after passing for 379 yards and four touchdowns also sets him up nicely for a gaudy follow-up performances. Brady has passed for four or more touchdowns in the opening week of a season twice before. After both of those performances, he had over 400 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and no interceptions. Then with the Patriots, the team won both contests in 2005 & 2011, scoring over 35 points in each.
That's also a trend for Brady-led teams against the Falcons in general. With him under center, his offenses score an average of 30.4 points on Atlanta. That's excellent news for the Bucs considering if they pull out a win at home while scoring over 30 points, it will become a new league record, having accomplished nine-consecutive such contests. It would also make for the third-straight game Tampa Bay hung 30 on their division rivals, scoring 30 or more in each of their victories in 2020. If the Bucs win at all on Sunday, they'll establish a new franchise record with a 10-game win streak.
3. S Jordan Whitehead
First things first with Whitehead, this will be his 2021 debut. Whitehead missed the season opener as he continued to recover from a hamstring injury he suffered in training camp. He was full speed in practice this week and that's good news going up against a division opponent.
We've heard all week about the challenges that the Bucs could potentially face, especially against Atlanta's offense. They have a shiny new toy in first-round pick Kyle Pitts, a top-five tight end out of Florida. Pitts had just 31 yards in the Falcons' opener but he presents issues because he's a tight end that can act as a true wide receiver. That makes it interesting on who you can get away with having cover him. A safety? Sure, in Whitehead's return he could be tasked with Pitts duty. But if Pitts runs routes like a receiver and Atlanta decides to send him out wide – can a corner be effective against Pitts' 6'6 frame? What about a linebacker? If it's the latter, it's a good thing the Bucs have this next guy.
4. ILB Lavonte David
David may not be super familiar with Pitts, but like Evans, he's familiar with Atlanta. He'll be facing some of the same personnel the Bucs are used to, though the system has changed under new head coach, Arthur Smith. In 17 career games against the Falcons, David has amassed 134 tackles, 21 of which were for loss, two forced fumbles and has one interception. You'll find David tracking sideline to sideline against Atlanta's 14th ranked rushing offense, too.
David has gotten off to a hot start this season, tallying double-digit tackles in the Bucs' season opener. He's tied for fourth in the league with 11 tackles after Week One. Let's see if it's him or Devin White who can count up the most on Sunday.
5. RB Ronald Jones
Arians announced earlier in the week that Jones would be the starter again for the Bucs, despite a fumble against the Cowboys that seemed to slow Jones' workload down. This Tampa Bay offense has proved they go with the hot hand and between Jones and Fournette, they have the potential for two of them, adding in Giovani Bernard in that third-down role. On top of that, Atlanta has the 31st ranked rushing defense after allowing Philadelphia to run for 193 yards in Week 1.
Even tight end Rob Gronkowski was advocating for the run game heading into the team's second home game in a row.
This could be an opportunity for the Bucs not only to get that ground game going, but for Jones to bounce back after last week.