A late season divisional showdown hits national television on Monday night when the Atlanta Falcons travel to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers in last place. While the rest of the NFC South jockeys for playoff positioning, the Buccaneers – pre-season favorites to make the jump to the postseason – are trying to win a game.
The questions revolve around coach Dirk Koetter in what has become a massive disillusionment of a season. The campaign began with a publicized training camp (thanks to HBO and NFL Films Hard Knocks ) and quickly fell apart after a 2-1 start. Since Tampa Bay's thrilling victory over the New York Giants in Week 3, the Buccaneers have gone 2-8. In a season that will be remembered for the ridiculous pre-game speech of Jameis Winston, the Buccaneers have fought hard to secure one.
Atlanta, meanwhile, may be awarded a cushion of one game in the sixth and final place in the playoffs. in the NFC with a victory over the Buccaneers. The Falcons have won four of their last five games and have shown they can do the job in close contests, getting three-point wins over Seattle and their NFC South rival, New Orleans, during that span. They will need the victory to prevent outside contenders (Dallas, Seattle) from entering the postseason with only two weeks to play after Monday.
This is what you have to watch out for in Monday Night Football .
1. Can Tampa Bay keep Atlanta below 20 points? The Buccaneers rank 11th in the league in points allowed per game (24), but 31 in total yards allowed per game (389.3). That would suggest that Tampa Bay hardens within the red zone, but against this Atlanta team, it will be especially difficult to keep the Falcons at the field goals. The Falcons have posted 20 or more points in four of their last five games, and not by chance, have won all those contests. It would seem, then, that the Bucs' best chance is to keep them below that number, especially with an offense that has exceeded 20 just twice in their last seven games (the Buccaneers also reached exactly 20 points twice in that span).
2. We used this point last week to discuss the confrontation between Miami and New England, and the Dolphins showed us that we were wrong to confuse the Patriots and play with a lot of effort, but it is especially valid to mention this situation. . The Buccaneers have been a decayed ship for quite some time and the collective eye is still trained in Koetter, who was elevated to the position after internal tension, but could be a victim of what promoted him. Tampa Bay suffered a tremendous regression in the second season of Koetter, with much of the fights centered on Winston, who also took a step back in 2017. There are jobs at stake, but how difficult it will be for the Bucs to play for Koetter in the last three weeks? We're seeing a rebound in Denver that will probably save Vance Joseph's work. Will something similar happen in Tampa? An annoying victory over the Falcons would surely help Koetter's case.
3. Will Atlanta take advantage of the moment? The Falcons & # 39; 2017 has been a roller coaster with every stop that brings the endless series of questions about the impact of its Super Bowl LI collapse. We just changed those questions (finally), but Atlanta is still not out of the woods when it comes to the Super Bowl's loss hangover. A victory moves the Falcons one step closer to the postseason, but a defeat would be much more damaging. Atlanta has a lot of momentum in its favor, especially after the Saints' exciting victory over last week. The Falcons have an appointment with them next week in a three-game final that is played exclusively against the division's rivals. These are all must-wins.