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Countdown to Kickoff: Buccaneers-Falcons, Week 14 2023 

The Buccaneers will face a divisional foe on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium…Key stats, lineup notes and more


The 5-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the 6-6 Atlanta Falcons on Sunday in a matchup that is crucial to their division title aspirations. The Bucs are coming off a victory against the Panthers and with a win on Sunday against their divisional foe, they would be tied for first place in the division. Tampa Bay will face an Atlanta team that boasts the sixth-best ground attack and a stingy defense that ranks first in the NFL in the red zone. In the critical round-robin tournament, the Bucs have a narrowed, playoff focus. In a high-stakes battle in hostile territory, the Bucs will look to catapult themselves forward in the quest for a third-straight division crown.

"We viewed [Week 13] as a playoff game," said Head Coach Todd Bowles. "From here on out, every game we play is a playoff game, and most of them are division games that we play, so it's really important for us to win those division games."

After a week of preparation, here is what the Week 14 matchup comes down to:

4 Stats That Matter

  • The winner of this game will be in first place in the division after Week 14 (both would be 3-1 in the division with head-to-head split). Tampa Bay would have tiebreaker based on record versus common opponents.
  • Bijan Robinson has 756 rush yards (most in the NFL among all rookies) and 1,022 scrimmage yards (second among rookies behind Rams' Puka Nacua with 1,074) in 2023. 616 of Robinson's 756 rushing yards have come on outside zone runs per Next Gen Stats, the highest such percentage at 83.0 in the NFL among 41 players with 100-plus carries in 2023.
  • According to Next Gen Stats, the Falcons have played man coverage on 38.5 percentage of opponents' dropbacks (sixth-most in the NFL in 2023). Atlanta has only allowed four passing touchdowns in man coverage this season (tied for second-fewest in the NFL).
  • The Falcons have allowed a touchdown on 37.1 percentage of opponents' red zone drives in 2023, the lowest opponent red zone touchdown percentage in the NFL and lowest in a season by Atlanta since at least 2000.

3 Lineup Notes

  • Bucs' linebacker Lavonte David practiced without limitations during the week and is expected to be back in the fold in Week 14 against Atlanta. David missed the previous two games with a groin injury and is still the Bucs' leading tackler with 90 stops. In addition, he leads the team with 14 tackles for loss and has notched 3.0 sacks, three passes defensed and a forced fumble.
  • Devin White will not return from his foot injury in Week 14, along with cornerback Jamel Dean. Dean was ruled out for the third-straight game due to ankle and foot injuries. Both nose tackle Vita Vea (toe), who was a new addition to the injury report this week, and linebacker K.J. Britt (back), were listed as questionable.
  • For the Falcons, inside linebacker Nate Landman (knee), right tackle Kaleb McGary (knee), defensive linemen David Onyemata (ankle) and LaCale London (knee) were ruled out for Sunday's divisional matchup. Landman, McGary and Onyemata were non-participants in practice all week. All three suffered injuries in the Falcons' Week 13 game at MetLife Stadium. London was listed as a full participant throughout the week after being designated to return from injured reserve early in the week. In addition, cornerbacks A.J. Terrell (concussion), Jeff Okudah (ankle) and Mike Hughes (hand) were listed as questionable. 

2 Challenges Presented by the Falcons

Defensively, Atlanta leads the league, allowing touchdowns on just 37.14% of opposing red zone drives. The Falcons have not allowed an offensive touchdown in 25 straight drives dating back to Week 10 at Arizona (longest active streak in the NFL). Jessie Bates III, the Falcons' tone-setter on the back end, has a knack for getting to the football. Bates has recorded five interceptions (career-high) in 2023 – tied for third in the NFL. In addition to the interceptions, Bates has recorded seven passes defensed, three forced fumbles, 92 combined tackles, one tackle for loss and one quarterback hit. Adept in both man and zone coverage, along with coming down into the box, Bates has elite read-and-reaction skills. He has the pattern recognition ability to shadow receivers in-and-out of breaks and is effective at reading the quarterback's eyes for prime positioning. Baker Mayfield will certainly be keyed in on his whereabouts come Sunday. Tampa Bay punched it into the end zone on two of three red zone trips last Sunday against the Panthers, which became a deciding factor In the outcome. The last time these two teams matched up, the Falcons came out victorious on a Younghoe Koo 51-yard field goal. The margin for error is slim and for the Bucs, capitalizing with seven instead of three will play a crucial role in the game.

Offensively, the Falcons' rushing attack ranks sixth in the NFL. Rookie Bijan Robinson leads the Falcons with 756 rushing yards, possessing a unique blend of power and elusiveness in space. He plays with a low center of gravity that allows him to navigate through the tackles and he has the open-field prowess for outside zone runs. Robinson is also a pass-catching talent, which elevates Arthur Smith's usage of multiple personnel groupings. The Falcons also get Tyler Allgeier (492) and Cordarrelle Patterson (130) involved, to keep defenses on their heels. Patterson is a do-it-all phenom and Allgeier is a bulldozer, consistently churning his legs for more yards and creating against stacked boxes. When opposing teams allocate resources to the run game, it opens opportunities for receiver Drake London and tight end Kyle Pitts. London currently leads the Falcons in receptions (46) and receiving yards (573) in 2023, with an impressive high-point ability and elite catch radius. He commands the catch space and Pitts, the Falcons' unicorn, has a rare combination of athleticism and balls skills. He can exploit at all three levels and his acceleration/long strides generate separation.

1 Key Quote from Kacy Rodgers

On Bijan Robinson:

"Well, it's just another explosive player they're putting on the field. They do a great job in the running game, but he adds another additional element to it because of his speed and explosiveness. If you misfit a run here, he goes 75 [yards], not 25. It will be critical that we are on point about that."

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