By Matthew Asher
Last time these teams met, Atlanta destroyed Tampa Bay for their second win of the season. Since that game, the Falcons (2-6) have yet to win another game. If Atlanta wants a chance at the postseason this year, they have to sweep the Bucs (1-7). Unlike the majority of their remaining games this season, Tampa Bay is an opponent that Atlanta can and should beat. If the Falcons can’t win this one, expect Mike Smith to have one foot out the door for the rest of the season.
Tampa Bay’s Offense
Although Thumper’s mother would disagree, there’s no way around the fact that the Bucs are a terrible team as they rank in the bottom third of the NFL in most of the meaningful stats. Their 18.8 points scored a game, rank them at 26th in the league. The main reason for their lack of scoring is their inability to move the football as Tampa averages just 303.9 yards of offense a game, the second worst in the NFL. The Bucs average 214.1 yards through the air and 89.8 yards on the ground, ranking them 26th and 29th in the league, respectively.
Tampa has used two different quarterbacks this season but Mike Glennon has the majority of the passing stats for the Bucs. He’s completed 57.6 percent of his passes for 1417 yards, 10 touchdowns against six interceptions for a passer rating of 83.3. He’s also been sacked 16 times and has rushed 10 times for 49 yards but no touchdowns. Regarding Tampa’s favorite receivers, both Mike Evans and Vincent Jacks are tied with 32 catches apiece. Evans has 460 yards and four touchdowns while Jackson has 443 yards and two touchdowns this season.
For Tampa’s ground game, Bobby Rainey leads the team with 81 rushes for 374 yards and one touchdown. Doug Martin, who has only played in five games this season, has carried the ball 58 times for 166 yards and one touchdown as well. Surprisingly, neither Rainey nor Martin leads the team in touchdown rushes. That would be backup quarterback Josh McCown who has two TD rushes on just five carries for 33 yards.
Tampa Bay’s Defense
Just like the offense, Tampa’s defense is atrocious. The Bucs surrender 30.6 points a game, the absolute worst in the league this season. They are also horrible at limiting yards. The give up 399.9 yards of total offense with 285.2 coming through the air and 114.6 coming on the ground ranking them 31st, 31st and 18th, respectively. Of course with Atlanta relying much more on their aerial attack, the rushing numbers don’t really come into play this time.
Tampa has a rough time sacking the opposing quarterback. Gerald McCoy leads the team with five sacks and Michael Johnson has two himself, but no other Buccaneer has recorded more than a single sack. As a team, Tampa has just 13 sacks on the season. Tampa’s takeaways are equally bad as they are currently negative-four in that department. Danny Lansanah has two interceptions, both have been returned for touchdowns, but otherwise the Bucs secondary hasn’t done well as they’ve recorded just six total INTs in eight games.
The Falcons must win this game. If they don’t expect Smitty’s chair to be smoking hot. Atlanta doesn’t need to blowout Tampa Bay like they did in Week 3, they just need to win and not let any more Falcons get injured. If they can do that, there’s still hope in the season. If not, the Falcons may as well start figuring out who will be there next top draft pick for next season. #RiseUp
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Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.