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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Scouting Report: Falcons' Top Game Wreckers | Week 7 

A look at the Falcons’ top playmakers who could impact the outcome of Sunday’s matchup


In an intradivision rival matchup, the 3-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers will battle the 3-3 Atlanta Falcons for first place in the NFC South on Sunday, October 22. In a tightly-contested division race with first place hanging in the balance, the Week Seven clash could define the direction of the 2023 slate for Tampa Bay and Atlanta. 

The Buccaneers faltered in a 20-6 loss to the visiting Lions in Week Six, as Detroit's consistent third down conversions in the second half became the defining difference against a Tampa Bay offense that converted just two of 12 attempts in the same category. The Bucs will quickly put the defeat in the rear view and will narrow their focus to the incoming NFC South foe. 

The Falcons have lost three of their last four games and have averaged 9.6 points in those contests. This past Sunday, Atlanta outgained the Washington Commanders 402 yards to 193 yards but only accumulated 16 points on 11 possessions, largely due to a plethora of self-inflicted wounds that included three interceptions by quarterback Desmond Ridder. Atlanta has turned the ball over eight times in the previous three games after turning it over twice in the first three games this season. The bright spot for Atlanta against Washington became the defense, which held the Commanders to just 3.9 yards per play. The unit boasted five sacks on Sam Howell after entering the Week Six matchup with five sacks combined in the first five games of the season. The Falcons will vie to bounce back from the recent loss at Raymond James Stadium, taking sole possession of the NFC South. Here are five who could help swing the game in favor of Atlanta on Sunday: 

Grady Jarrett 

Grady Jarrett, the Falcons' stalwart in the interior, causes maximum disruption at the line of scrimmage. Last season, he notched 6.0 sacks, 61 tackles and 12 for loss, spearheading the charge in Atlanta. Jarrett is quick off the ball and possesses a powerful frame to generate push. He is the ultimate sign of a true juggernaut, consistently demanding double teams and additional protection slides to his side of the formation. Jarrett is able to quickly bypass guards to knife through gaps to harass the backfield. Aaron Donald may have blazed the trail and shattered preconceived notions about undersized interior defensive linemen, but Jarrett has also showcased that smaller defensive prospects can leave a lasting legacy. Jarrett's resumé speaks for itself: His 17.5% pass rush win rate since 2017 ranks third among interior defenders. Jarrett, the longest-tenured Atlanta defender, routinely knocks offensive linemen out of position with a lethal speed-to-power conversion. He will be at the top of the Bucs' radar come Sunday. 

Bijan Robinson 

Texas running back Bijan Robinson became this year's consensus 'generational talent' frontrunner in the 2023 draft discussions. With a rare blend of power, elusiveness and pass-catching talent, Robinson jumps off the tape. The former Doak Walker Award winner possesses a smorgasbord of unique traits that allows him to affect games, including inside/outside versatility and the agile footwork to stack moves. Robinson has the top-end speed to go the distance and the contact balance to fight through leg tackles, bouncing off angled hits. The Falcons selected Robinson with the eighth overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft, adding to the team's offensive arsenal. Head Coach Arthur Smith experiments with multiple personnel groupings and pre-snap movement to gain leverage on defenses. His brand of football is centered around the run game, featuring motion, play-action passing, rollouts and position-less skill players to create mismatches. Robinson provides another explosive and unpredictable weapon to the mix, alongside Kyle Pitts, Drake London and Cordarrelle Patterson. The Falcons take a bully-ball approach and try and force defenses to play a particular style of football that is unconventional in the modern era with its pass-heavy nature. Robinson is the latest beneficiary and catalyst in the Falcons' trademark run style. 

Kyle Pitts 

With a mobile quarterback in Desmond Ridder, multiple chess pieces at running back and tight ends – including offseason acquisition Jonnu Smith via trade with the Patriots – that can align anywhere on the field and wide receivers that can lineup all across the formation, the Falcons are able to utilize a variety of personnel packages to generate plays in space. The Falcons use more diverse groupings than any team in the NFL per nfelo, employing 12 personnel 35% of plays (seventh), 21 personnel 24% (fifth) and 22 personnel 10% (second). Kyle Pitts, a 6-foot-6 target with 4.4-level speed, is a rare specimen. Not many tight ends in the league are being lined up on the outside to run go balls but Pitts has the vertical prowess to give cornerbacks fits. The hybrid tight end/receiver has accumulated 22 receptions for 251 yards in 2023 and is averaging 11.4 yards per reception. Pitts pairs an elite catch radius with lazer-focus on contested catches. He has a quick accelerator to burst past off-man coverage with long strides. Pitts has the tantalizing traits that keep defensive coordinators up at night with his ability to work all three levels of the field as a pass catcher. The Bucs' will have to know where he is lined up at all times. 

Drake London 

Drake London, the Falcons' No. 8 overall pick, set a franchise record for receptions as a rookie last season. He led Atlanta with 866 yards, and the majority came in the four games after Desmond Ridder was named the starter. When opposing teams are forced to allocate resources to the run game, it opens favorable matchups for the receivers, specifically London. At 6-foot-5, 200-plus pounds, London is another large weapon for Arthur Smith to unleash, bullying opponents to submission. His basketball background shows up in 50-50 high-point situations, bolstering London's positioning. The USC product is able to defeat inside leverage on in-breaking routes, has fluidity on cuts and the ball-tracking ability to haul in catches downfield. His outside/slot flexibility makes him the perfect mold for Smith's mismatch pool. 

Chris Lindstrom

Chris Lindstrom flashes with his aggressiveness off the ball. He has established himself as one of the best guards in football and the Falcons' ground-and-pound system runs through him. PFF had Lindstrom as its highest-graded guard in 2022, when he earned his first Pro Bowl nod and also received second-team All-Pro honors following the year. Back in March, Lindstrom was rewarded and signed a contract-extension that made him the highest-paid guard in NFL history in both total money and average-per-year salary. Lindstrom's athletic gifts elevate the Falcons' offense. His outstanding initial quickness and agility to thrive as a move blocker/connect with targets at the second level differentiates Lindstrom from the conventional pack. He effortlessly operates pulls and traps and plays with acute awareness. Lindstrom seeks to impose his will and the Bucs' defensive line will be aware of the Falcons' savvy right guard on every snap.

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