The Tampa Bay Buccaneers saw their four-game winning streak come to an end in Week 16 with a narrow 23-20 loss to Houston but they have one game left in the 2019 regular season and are determined to finish Bruce Arians' first season at the helm with an 8-8 record.
Tampa Bay's final opponent will be the Falcons, whom the Buccaneers defeated in Atlanta on November 24 to begin that aforementioned winning streak. Tampa Bay will go for its first season sweep of their Georgian rivals since 2015 in an attempt to finish the second half of the season with a 6-2 record. To do so, the Bucs will have to slow down a resurgent Falcons offense that scored 69 points in wins over Carolina and San Francisco leading into a Week 16 game at home against Jacksonville.
The Bucs' loss at home against Houston on Saturday killed the possibility of a winning season but still showcased a defense that has quite clearly turned the corner in the season's second half. Despite being put in a variety of difficult situations by five turnovers from the offense, Tampa Bay's defense limited Houston to a season-low 229 yards and only 13 offensive points. The Bucs' young and rapidly-improving secondary held Pro Bowl wideout DeAndre Hopkins to 23 yards and Pro Bowl QB Deshaun Watson to 184 passing yards, sacking Watson five times.
That defense will be tested by Julio Jones, yet another Pro Bowl opponent who has 18 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns over the Falcons' last two games. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay's offense, which got 109 yards of total offense from running back Ronald Jones on Saturday, will try to stay in high gear despite the losses of Pro Bowl receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to hamstring injuries. Godwin could potentially return for the Week 17 game but that is by no means a certainty.
There could be some jockeying of the final NFC South standings in play in Week 17, too. The Bucs fell to 7-8 with their loss on Saturday and the Falcons and Carolina Panthers could move to 6-9 by the end of the weekend (Carolina plays at Indianapolis). The Bucs are 2-3 in divisional play, while the Falcons are 3-2 and the Panthers are 1-4 but could get to 2-4 with a Week 17 win over New Orleans.