With training camp approaching quickly, we’re taking a look at each of the Atlanta Falcons’ divisional rivals. We start with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Things are somewhat quiet these days for the Atlanta Falcons and the rest of the NFL’s 31 clubs. So it’s as good as time as any to scout out each of the team’s NFC South rivals on an individual basis. From recent history between the clubs to a look ahead to this season. We get things started with the much-improved Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
2016 Results: In Week 1, the Bucs won at Atlanta for the second straight year – holding on for a 31-24 victory. Eight weeks later on a Thursday night at Tampa (Week 9), the Falcons returned the favor via a 43-28 triumph.
2017 Meetings: The Falcons play five of their final six games vs. their divisional brethren. That includes meetings with the Buccaneers at home (Week 12) and on the road three weeks later (Week 15) on a Monday night at Raymond James Stadium.
Analysis: Are the Buccaneers ready to make a move? They haven’t won a division title or been to the postseason since 2007. But this was a club that overcame a shaky start this past season, The team won six of its final eight games to finish 9-7. Late in the year, the Bucs won at Kansas City and then beat the Seattle Seahawks in the span of eight days. As previously mentioned, they also kicked off the season with a victory at Atlanta. Since becoming the starting quarterback in 2015, Jameis Winston has knocked off this division rival three times in four tries.
Head coach Dirk Koetter (who calls the plays) and defensive coordinator Mike Smith need more consistency. The team added defensive tackle Chris Baker and strong safety J.J. Wilcox. On offense, the newcomers include wideout DeSean Jackson and rookie tight end O.J. Howard. The latter was the Buccaneers’ first-round pick in April.
All told, this is a very dangerous Tampa squad that’s starting to feel its oats. At the moment, they look like the Atlanta Falcons biggest threat in the NFC South.
Russell S. Baxter covers the Atlanta Falcons for Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter at @baxfootballguru. Looking for more Falcons news and features? Like our Falcons Facebook page HERE and also follow @spot_falcons on Twitter.