5 Bucs to Watch Against Atlanta

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1. RB Peyton Barber

Running back Peyton Barber usually has good games against the team from his home state of Georgia. The Alpharetta-native has three touchdowns in the last two meetings between the teams. His opportunity is compounded by the fact that the Falcons tend to struggle against the run. They have the 27th-ranked rushing defense in the league, giving up an average of 127.1 yards per game on the ground.  Barber has had just one game over 100 yards rushing this season, which came against the New York Giants in Week 11. He came close in his last meeting with the Falcons, getting 82 yards on 13 carries back in Week Six. Sunday will be his chance to that extra 18 to give him two 100-yard rushing games in 2018.

2. WR Mike Evans

Evans was on the list last week in part because he’s staring down a nearly 30-year-old Bucs record. With just five more receiving yards on Sunday, Evans will break the Bucs’ all-time single-season receiving yards record set by wide receiver Mark Carrier in 1989. Evans has already bested his previous single-season receiving yards record, amassing 1,418 so far in 2018. His previous high was 1,321. That 1,418-yard mark is the third-most of any receiver in the NFL this season, behind only Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins and one Julio Jones, who will be on the opposing sideline come Sunday. Add up each season Evans has had in his career and he’s sitting at 5,997, which is good for sixth-most by any player in his first four seasons in the league. With Evans active for Sunday, it’s pretty safe to say quarterback Jameis Winston will be looking his way for any completion over five yards right away.

3. DE Vinny Curry

Curry was a big free-agent signing for the Buccaneers, coming off a Super Bowl win with Philadelphia just months prior. Curry has added a veteran presence to the line but his impact hasn’t translated in the stat column as much as he probably would have liked. Part of that is also due to the emergence of defensive end Carl Nassib, who the team signed prior to Week One after he was released by the Cleveland Browns. Nassib has gone on to tally 6.5 sacks for the Buccaneers and play a complementary role to defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who has 11.5 sacks on the year of his own. Curry has been rotating with Nassib all year but now Nassib is listed as doubtful after not practicing all week with a shoulder injury. Should he not be able to go, Curry will get a majority of his snaps and pick up an opportunity to have a big impact opposite Pierre-Paul on Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan.

4. CB Carlton Davis III

He’s a rookie, but at this point in the season, you wouldn’t know it. Davis was asked to step up very early on after cornerback Vernon Hargreaves went down in Week One with a season-ending injury. Davis has had to perform while he learns all season and it’s paid off in the form of an improved player that’s been very effective for the Bucs’ defense. The secondary especially suffered at the hands of the injury bug but has still gelled despite the shuffling. With the receiving threats that Atlanta has in Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu, Davis will be tapped to help contain, along with veteran Brent Grimes and safeties Jordan Whitehead (also a rookie) and Isaiah Johnson.

5. QB Jameis Winston

Winston has his best games against Atlanta and it ain’t close. He has 16 TDs against the Falcons in his career with just four interceptions. That’s 11 more than he’s had against any other team, including division opponents. He’s gone 3-3 in the six games he’s played against the team he grew up idolizing. He wasn’t a Falcons fan but he is a fan of their former quarterback Michael Vick. He’s also from a town less than two hours away from Atlanta in Alabama, which may have something to do with the extra juice he has when playing them. The game is also the last of a 2018 season that hasn’t lived up to expectations, meaning he will want to end the season on a high note if not for himself, but for his teammates, his coaches and the fans.

View photos from the Buccaneers' practice on Dec. 27 at AdventHealth Training Center.

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