The Atlanta Falcons have worked their way back into the NFC playoff picture, and they’ll try to solidify their standing with a third consecutive victory when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. The Falcons have won three of their last four games, while the Buccaneers have captured two straight following a five-game skid.
The Falcons are back in the wild-card race after posting a 34-31 win at Seattle on Monday and are beginning a stretch of three straight home games, although the next two are against division leaders Minnesota and New Orleans. After suffering three losses by six points or fewer, the Falcons have seen two close games go their way in the last four weeks. “We’re getting the outcome we want now,” Falcons receiver Julio Jones told reporters. “Winning will breed more swagger and more confidence.” The Buccaneers have confidence in quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is 2-0 as a starter since replacing the injured Jameis Winston after passing for 275 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s 30-20 win at Miami.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Falcons -10. O/U: 48.5
ABOUT THE BUCCANEERS (4-6): Tampa Bay has been unable to get its ground game going, even with Doug Martin back from suspension. The offense has turned things around with Fitzpatrick at the helm, though, simply by taking care of the ball – the Bucs have committed only one turnover in their last two games after coughing it up nine times in their previous four contests. One of the league’s worst pass defenses was torched for 365 yards through the air last week, but the Bucs offset it by forcing five turnovers - giving them 19 takeaways this season.
ABOUT THE FALCONS (6-4): Atlanta’s dramatic offensive drop-off continued last week, as it totaled just 279 yards in the win at Seattle. Jones has only one touchdown reception and two 100-yard receiving performances all season while Matt Ryan is averaging 256.7 passing yards – down from 309 last season. Atlanta has done a great job against the pass but has struggled to stop the run, allowing an average of 148 yards on the ground over the last three games.
1. Ryan has thrown a touchdown pass in 28 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the league.
2. Tampa Bay WR Mike Evans has averaged 96.6 receiving yards and caught five touchdown passes in his last five meetings with the Falcons.
3. Atlanta RB Devonta Freeman, who is questionable due to a concussion, has recorded 13 TDs in his last nine home games.
PREDICTION: Falcons 27, Buccaneers 20