It's Week 2 of the 2021 season and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face off against a division rival when they host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
Week 2 is an early starting point for divisional matchups, but this isn't anything new. The Bucs have played an NFC South foe within the first two weeks of the season nine out of the last 10 seasons, including 2021. 2017 is the lone exception.
Will the Bucs get a jump-start on the Falcons with a win? This matchup looks pretty uneven on paper, but if you consistently watch the NFL, then you know everything is tossed out the window when it comes to division games.
- All-time series: The Falcons lead the all-time series, 28-27.
- Longest win streak: Tampa Bay won six games in a row from 1997-2003.
- Largest margin of victory: Everyone remembers the 56-14 beatdown at the hands of the Falcons back in 2014.
- 2021 offensive and defensive rankings: The Bucs currently have the NFL's ninth-best offense (5th pass, 30th run) and the 28th-ranked defense (29th pass, 4th run). Tampa Bay averages 31 points per game on offense (12th) and has allowed 29 points per game on defense (20th). The Falcons currently have the 27th-ranked offense (32nd pass, 15th run) and the 25th-ranked defense (16th pass, 29th run). Atlanta averages six points per game (31st) on offense, while allowing 32 points per game on defense (22nd).
What To Watch For
- The Falcons offensive line: Week 1 is about as bad a performance as you will ever see from an NFL offensive line. Offensive is certainly the key word and Atlanta's front five was every single bit of it against the Eagles. Now, the unit faces off against one of the NFL's most talented front sevens in the Buccaneers. It can't get any worse, but will it get any better?
- Tampa Bay's pass rush: Jason Pierre-Paul will play via Bruce Arians, so the Bucs pass rush is a full-go for this weekend. Shaquil Barrett, JPP, Vita Vea, and Co. pressured Dak Prescott all game long last week but sacked him just once. There should be more opportunities this week against Matt Ryan, who is nowhere near as mobile as Prescott. The Falcons were constantly behind the chains against the Eagles, which pretty much derailed their game plan. The Bucs need to follow that blue print by taking down Ryan as much as possible.
- The Bucs receivers vs. the Falcons secondary: With all due respect, there isn't much going on with the Falcons secondary outside of A.J. Terrell. Will the rest of the crew be able to keep up with the likes of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, and the rest?
- Mistakes: Turnovers and penalties almost cost Tampa Bay the game last week. The Falcons had their own issues in both departments, as well. Will either team learn from Week 1?
- Dean Pees vs. Tom Brady: These two know each other very well and things didn't go so well for the latter the last time these two went up against each other. Pees is one of the NFL's better schemers, so expect him to throw everything he can at Brady and the Bucs offense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- WR Mike Evans: Expect a big game after just three receptions in Week 1.
- WR Antonio Brown: Brown will benefit from the attention placed on everyone else, thus leading to another big game.
- G Ali Marpet: One of the league's best guards, Marpet will help dictate the Falcons pass rush.
- DT Vita Vea: He should eat against the Falcons interior offensive line this weekend.
- OLB Shaquil Barrett: The Bucs' sack leader has had a lot of success against the Falcons over the last couple of years and that shouldn't change.
- S Jordan Whitehead: The return of Whitehead is a major boost to the Bucs secondary.
- QB Matt Ryan: He's up there in age, but is still effective and torched the Bucs defense in 2020.
- RB Mike Davis: New head coach Arthur Smith loves to run the ball, but will Davis be able to find room against this run defense?
- TE Kyle Pitts: After a quiet debut, Pitts should be able to make some plays against the Bucs secondary.
- DL Grady Jarrett: Jarrett is the heart of the Falcons pass rush and needs to be contained or else it could be a long day.
- LB Deion Jones: One of the league's most athletic linebackers, Jones is a top-2 player on this defense and will be a factor in this game.
- CB A.J. Terrell: The best corner on the Falcons roster, Terrell is going to have his hands full against the Bucs receivers.
- The Bucs currently have eight consecutive wins while scoring 30+ points, which is tied for the longest streak in NFL history. Brady was the starting QB for all three streaks. Brady was named NFL MVP following both the 2007 and 2010 seasons.
- Brady has an 8-0 record vs. the Falcons, including postseason - the best W/L vs. Atlanta by any player in NFL history. Brady-led teams have averaged 30.4 points per game in those eight wins vs. Atlanta.
- The Buccaneers were one of just two teams not to allow a sack in Week 1.
- Brady and Gronkowski need just three more touchdowns to tie Philip Rivers & Antonio Gates (89) for the second-most regular-season touchdown connections in NFL history.
*Stats provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Communications Department
The Bucs are big favorites for the second straight week and for good reason. Atlanta looked absolutely miserable in its opener against the Eagles.
But I'm not too sure this will be as distant of a game as Vegas tends to believe.
The Bucs should keep the Falcons at arm's length for the game, but I wouldn't expect it to be a wire-to-wire display of domination. Tampa Bay will have to overcome its lack of a running game and its inconsistent secondary in order for that to happen and I'm not sure if either task is accomplished this week.
As long as the Bucs protect Brady and pressure Ryan, while avoiding the penalties and turnovers, everything will be fine. The Falcons simply don't have the personnel to keep up with the Bucs. Unless the Bucs keep them in the game by making mistakes. Which based off we know about Brady -and what we saw last year- the mistakes are very, very likely to be a non-factor in this game. He will make sure the team is dialed-in, focused, and ready to win a game they should easily win.
The Falcons score a late, backdoor touchdown to cover the spread, but the Bucs will move to 2-0 on Sunday, which is all that matters.
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