The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got back to even on the road in 2021 on Sunday, winning a 38-31 thriller in Indianapolis to improve to 8-3 overall. That record has given them a comfortable three-game cushion in the NFC South standings over both the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints, both 5-6. The Buccaneers could help their cause even more next Sunday in Atlanta with a win over the Falcons that would give them a season sweep in the series for the second year in a row.
The Buccaneers had struggled on the road for much of 2021 before their big win in Indy, in which they stormed back from a 24-14 halftime deficit by forcing five turnovers and pounding the ball with Leonard Fournette (four touchdowns) and Rob Gronkowski (seven catches for 123 yards). The Falcons also won on the road in Week 12 but are 1-4 so far this season at home.
Tampa Bay swamped Atlanta at Raymond James Stadium in Week Two by a 48-25 score, with Tom Brady throwing five touchdown passes, including two each to Gronkowski and Mike Evans. Safety Mike Edwards punctuated the blowout with two pick-sixes in the game's final eight minutes. Atlanta's Cordarrelle Patterson scored on a 10-yard run and a seven-yard reception to keep the Falcons within striking distance in the second half, hinting at his unexpected emergence as the team's most productive offensive player. Patterson scored two touchdowns in Sunday's win at Jacksonville, returning from a one-game absence due to an ankle injury. Patterson has 776 yards from scrimmage and seven scores so far this season, topping 300 yards both on the ground and through the air.
The Atlanta defense has struggled for much of 2021, allowing 28.8 points per game heading into Week 12, which was the second-most in the NFL. However, that crew features an impressive duo of linebackers in Deion Jones and Foyesade Oluokun. Jones is one of the NFL's best coverage linebackers and he has 92 tackles, two sacks and three passes defensed this season. Oluokun has 119 tackles, two sacks, seven quarterback hits and an interception. Oluokun came into the weekend ranked fourth in NFL tackles. Meanwhile, the Falcons will be hoping that the shoulder injury that kept Jones out on Sunday will only cause him to miss one game.
The NFC South was formed in 2002 and in the two decades since the Buccaneers have never swept their season series with the Falcons in two consecutive years. The Bucs happened to win the division's first title in 2002 and then went on to the first of their now two Super Bowl championships. Tampa Bay is trying to win their first division title since 2007 and a win on Sunday in Atlanta would get them one step closer to that goal.