Buccaneers (3-7) vs. Falcons (3-7)
All-time record: Atlanta leads series 27-24
Road record: 10-14
Key Matchups (via Scott Smith):
1. Buccaneers LG Ali Marpet vs. Falcons DT Grady Jarrett
As noted above, the Atlanta defense has come alive with 11 sacks in its last two games after registering only seven through the team's first eight games of the season. Jarrett helped get that steamroller started two weeks ago when he dropped Drew Brees in New Orleans 2.5 times, raising his own sack total on the year to a team-best 5.5. Jarrett is strong and quick and his motor never quits, so he's going to get have big moments in the backfield on long-developing plays. Jarrett won't line up exclusively over the Bucs' standout left guard, but he will spend plenty of time across from Marpet, trying to quickly shoot between him and the center or him and the tackle. Marpet was part of an offensive line that only allowed Winston to be sacked twice in 53 drop-backs last week against the Saints and he's one of the tougher Buccaneer linemen to get around or through. Marpet and Jarrett will also be a good matchup on running plays because both players are strong and difficult to move.
2. Falcons WR Calvin Ridley vs. Buccaneers CB Sean Murphy-Bunting
Atlanta nabbed the Alabama star in the first round in 2018 in order to pair him with the still-deadly Julio Jones, and Ridley had a fine rookie season with 821 yards and 10 touchdowns, though his offense, and his touchdowns in particular, seemed to come in bunches. That's still somewhat the case in Ridley's second season, though he's upped his yards per reception from 12.8 to 14.0 and his yards per game from 51.3 to 61.4. In any case, Ridley is coming off one of those big-bunch performances, as he caught eight passes for 143 yards and a touchdown in Atlanta' Week 11 win in Carolina. The Buccaneers don't generally trail specific receivers with a certain cornerback, so both Murphy-Bunting and Carlton Davis are likely to see plenty of both Jones and Ridley. When Murphy-Bunting, the Bucs' rapidly improving rookie, is on Ridley he'll have to match the receiver's speed, quick feet and smooth breaks in his routes. Both Murphy-Bunting and Davis could benefit from playing a physical game and using their length to press Ridley, who doesn't have as big of a frame as Jones.
3. Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones vs. Falcons LB Deion Jones
Even though the Falcons' defense has been extremely stingy on the scoreboard the last two weeks, it did give up 191 yards from scrimmage to the Panthers' Christian McCaffrey and 74 to the Saints' Alvin Kamara the week before. Obviously, McCaffrey and Kamara are two of the best all-around running backs in the NFL and they've done well against most defenses, but the Buccaneers may seek to create some of the same damage with their backs if Atlanta follows New Orleans' lead and tries to blanket Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Last Sunday, tight end Cam Brate picked up the slack over the middle of the field with 10 catches, but two games again Jones started to emerge as a real threat in the passing attack with 77 yards on eight catches. If the Bucs' Jones tries to get out in space for quick passes from Jameis Winston, he'll probably find himself hunted by his fellow Jones, the Falcons' smaller but very fast linebacker, who can make plays all over the field. Deion Jones has just one pass defensed this year but over the previous three seasons he had snared eight interceptions and 27 passes defensed. He is also the Falcons' leading tackler on running plays, so if the Buccaneers hope to get the running game back in their offense by sending Ronald Jones between the tackles they'll have to find a way to keep Deion Jones from getting free runs in the gaps.
4. Falcons RT Kaleb McGary vs. Buccaneers OLB Shaq Barrett
The Falcons took Washington's McGary late in the first round of the 2019 draft and he won the starting right tackle job, though he had to overcome a heart issue over the summer and a knee injury in the second game of the season. That may have contributed to some inconsistent performances early, though adjusting to the NFL is difficult for most rookies, but McGary has settled in as the season has progressed. He's a big presence on the right end of the line at 6-6 and 306 pounds and he's strong and difficult to bull-rush, so Barrett and the Bucs' other edge rushers may try to beat him with quickness and counter-moves. Barrett was held without a sack last Sunday against the Saints for just the third time in 10 games but he still ranks second in the NFL with 11.5 sacks and he has 17 quarterback hits and four forced fumbles. With injuries thinning out the Bucs' outside linebacker position, Barrett has been playing nearly every snap on defense and he remains the team's best hope for getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
The game will kick off at 1:00 p.m. ET. The broadcast can be found on FOX, locally. It will also be available on a live stream that can be accessed through the Buccaneers Official App and Yahoo Sports. See below for details.
How to Watch:
Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth, Jennifer Hale
The stream is available through Yahoo Sports, the Buccaneers Official App and online at Buccaneers.com.
*Geographic and device restrictions apply. Local & primetime games only. Data charges may apply.
How to Listen:
*In-market fans can listen through the Bucs Official App
Gene Deckerhoff, Dave Moore, T.J. Rives
98ROCK (97.9 - Tampa)
The Boot (103.9 FM – Brooksville)
ESPN SW Florida (99.3 FM – Ft. Myers/Naples/Punta Gorda)
Citrus (95.3 FM - Homosassa)
WLKF (96.7 FM and 1430 AM – Lakeland)
WYGM (740 AM/ 96.9 FM – Orlando and Melbourne)
WSTU (1450 AM - Port St. Lucie)
ESPN Tallahassee (97.9 FM – Tallahassee)
WTMP-FM 96.1, 101.9 and WMGG-AM 1470 (Tampa)
WIXC – AM 1060 (Melbourne/Orlando)
Sirius/XM Channel 88
On the Bucs Official App*
*Access restricted to Tampa area