In a tight NFC South race, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will hit the road in Week 14 to take on the Atlanta Falcons. After a 21-18 home victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, the 5-7 Buccaneers are one game behind the 6-6 Falcons in the division standings. Atlanta beat Tampa Bay back in Week Seven and the Bucs will seek redemption on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Bucs will face a rushing attack that ranks sixth in the NFL (135.2) led by powerful and elusive back Bijan Robinson, and a defense that is ranked 10th in the league (315.9). The Falcons are riding a two-game win streak heading into Week 14 and the Bucs will vie to stack two wins back-to-back in the quest for another division title. Here are four players who could help swing the game in favor of Atlanta on Sunday:
With a video-game quality blend of power, elusiveness and pass-catching talent, Bijan Robinson jumps off the tape. The former Doak Walker Award winner became the most coveted running back prospect since Saquon Barkley in the 2023 NFL Draft buzz. He plays with a low center of gravity and quick feet. Robinson currently leads the Falcons in rushing yards with 756 – eighth in the NFL. He can alter the pace of his runs and stack cuts, which makes him a nightmare for defenses with the level of unpredictability that he possesses with the ball in his hands. The Falcons selected Robinson with the eighth overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft, adding to the team's offensive arsenal. He was selected to become the focal point of the offense and he has met those lofty expectations. Head Coach Arthur Smith utilizes multiple personnel groupings and pre-snap movement to generate mismatches. His brand of football is centered around pounding the rock, featuring movement, play-action passing, rollouts and versatile skill players to create in space. Robinson can easily maneuver through leg tackles with rare contact balance and finishes runs by falling forward. He can quickly accelerate off jump cuts and has top-flight speed to go the distance.
Drake London, the Falcons' No. 8 overall pick, set a franchise record for receptions as a rookie last season. He currently leads the Falcons in receptions (46) and receiving yards (573) in 2023. When opposing teams allocate resources to the run game by stacking the box to try and mitigate Robinson's effectiveness, it opens favorable matchups for the receivers, especially Desmond Ridder's go-to target, London. At 6-foot-5, 200-plus pounds, London is another big-bodied weapon for Arthur Smith. His natural high-point ability gives London an advantage in 50-50 situations. London consistently gains leverage on in-breaking routes and commands the catch space. With an impressive catch radius, ball-tracking ability and fluidity on cuts, he elevates the Falcons' offense.
The Falcons signed David Onyemata during free agency in March to bolster the defensive interior. Onyemata was drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. The defensive lineman from Nigeria had seen action in over 100 games (68 starts) while playing alongside Cam Jordan. Over the course of his seven campaigns in New Orleans, Onyemata accumulated 23 sacks, 244 total tackles (28 for a loss) and 63 quarterback hits. Between 2017 to 2020, Onyemata played a crucial role in shaping one of the NFL's best run defenses in NOLA with 21 tackles for loss during that span. With the Falcons, Onyemata has accumulated three passes defensed, two fumble recoveries, 3.5 sacks, 45 combined tackles, five tackles for loss and 14 quarterback hits. Onyemata is proficient as a one-gap player, invading the backfield with penetration, or as a two-gap player, taking on a center and guard. He is a dominant force with tremendous size and strength. Like a freight train coming out of his stance, Onyemata rocks offensive linemen back with burst off the line of scrimmage and violent hands. The Bucs will certainly key in on where Onyemata is at all times.
Jessie Bates III
As one of the top safeties in the NFL, Jessie Bates III has a knack for getting his hands on the football. In Week 12 against the Saints, Bates III was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week. He recorded a 92-yard pick-six off Derek Carr and came up with a clutch peanut punch in the third quarter as the Saints were driving down the field. Bates has recorded five interceptions (career-high) in 2023 – tied for third in the NFL. In addition to the picks, Bates has amassed seven passes defensed, three forced fumbles, 92 combined tackles, one tackle for loss and one quarterback hit. Bates has the versatility to excel in man coverage and the instincts/range to make plays on the ball from zone coverage. He possesses elite read-and-reaction skills, with a quick trigger to the ball. Bates has the pattern recognition to blanket receivers in-and-out of breaks and he will be one to keep an eye on come Sunday. He sets the tone in the Falcons' secondary and in a high-stakes game, Bates will look to pat his resumé.