Second place Buccaneers have a chance to get back to the top of the NFC South with a win over the Falcons in Atlanta.

0
56
Mayfield shines again, Buccaneers stay unbeaten with 27-17 victory over struggling Bears - MIKE EVANS -AP-PHOTO

TAMPA BAY (5-7) at ATLANTA (6-6)

Sunday, 1 p.m. EST, CBS.

OPENING LINE: Falcons by 2 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.A

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Buccaneers 7-4-1; Falcons 4-8.

SERIES RECORD: Tied 30-30.

LAST MEETING: Falcons beat Buccaneers 16-13 on Oct. 22 in Tampa.

LAST WEEK: Buccaneers beat Panthers 21-18; Falcons beat Jets 13-8.

BUCCANEERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (23), RUSH (30), PASS (19), SCORING (23).

BUCCANEERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (27), RUSH (10), PASS (28), SCORING (T-10).

FALCONS OFFENSE: OVERALL (18), RUSH (6), PASS (22), SCORING (24).

FALCONS DEFENSE: OVERALL (10), RUSH (15), PASS (11), SCORING (7).

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Buccaneers plus-5; Falcons minus-3.

BUCCANEERS PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Mike Evans. Last week, he joined Hall of Famer Jerry Rice as the only players in NFL history to put together a stretch of at least 10 consecutive seasons with 1,000-plus yards receiving. Evans also became the first player to begin a career with a streak of 10 straight years with at least 60 catches

FALCONS PLAYER TO WATCH: S Jessie Bates. In his first year with Atlanta, he’s had a huge impact on the defense. Bates had his fifth interception — a new career high — in last weekend’s victory over the Jets. He ranks third in the league in picks, trailing only Dallas’ DaRon Bland with eight and Baltimore’s Geno Stone with six. Bates also leads the Falcons with 92 tackles and three forced fumbles.

KEY MATCHUP: Falcons running game vs. Buccaneers defensive front. Atlanta rushed for 156 yards in the first meeting against Tampa Bay and will likely lean heavily on its trio of Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson in the rematch. The Falcons haven’t been able to muster much of a passing game. Desmond Ridder completed just 12 of 27 passes for 121 yards and was sacked three times by the Jets.

KEY INJURIES: The Buccaneers were hopeful that LB Lavonte David (groin) can return to the lineup after missing the past two games. LB Devin White (foot) was inactive against Carolina. CB Jamel Dean (ankle/foot), LB K.J. Britt (back) and DT Vita Vea (toe) also were nursing injuries. For the Falcons, CB A.J. Terrell was in the concussion protocol. LB Nate Landman and OT Kaleb McGary could miss time after going down with knee injuries against the Jets, though neither was thought to be a long-term issue. CB Jeff Okudah (ankle), DT David Onyemata (ankle) and C Drew Dalman (ankle) were banged up, as well.

SERIES NOTES: The Falcons have won the past two meetings with their NFC South rival after dropping five in a row from 2020-22 during Tom Brady’s time with the Buccaneers. Atlanta has not swept the season series since 2018.

STATS AND STUFF: Tampa Bay is coming off just its second win in the past eight games after a surprising 3-1 start to the season. … Bucs WR Chris Godwin is coming off his first game without a reception since 2018, though he did have a 19-yard touchdown run in the victory over Carolina. … Rookie LB YaYa Diaby has five sacks for Tampa Bay, all since Week 8. He ranks second on the team behind Vea’s 5½. … Second-year DE Arnold Ebiketie is on a similar run for Atlanta, with all of his team-leading 5 1/2 sacks coming in the past seven games. … With 26 sacks overall, the Falcons are on pace for their highest total since 2018. They already surpassed their totals for both 2021 (18) and last season (21). … Falcons K Younghoe Koo has missed only one field goal in 25 attempts this season. He’s made 18 in a row since his lone miss at Detroit in Week 3, including a 51-yarder as time expired to win the first meeting with the Bucs. … The Falcons are going for their first three-game winning streak since 2019. … Atlanta is 3-0 against NFC South opponents. … Atlanta WR Drake London was held to one reception for 8 yards against the Jets. Since his lone 100-yard receiving game in Week 6, he’s been held to 20 receptions for 244 yards in five games.

FANTASY TIP: The Atlanta defense has been their saving grace. While the offense has struggled to score points, the guys on the other side of the line keep bailing them out. The Falcons have allowed just 28 points the past two weeks and limited the Bucs to a single touchdown in the Week 7 victory at Tampa Bay.

___

AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL