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Preview: Atlanta at Tampa Bay
When: 1:00 PM ET, Sunday, December 6, 2015
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
While the Atlanta Falcons slowly have been slipping in the NFC playoff picture, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been clawing their way back into it. They’ll both try to improve their chances with a key divisional victory when the Buccaneers host the Falcons on Sunday.
The Falcons kept pace with Carolina in the NFC South for a month, winning their first five games and six of their first seven before enduring a four-game skid that prompted a players-only meeting on Monday. “I think that’s a good part of a team, to have good, solid leadership, guys that voice stuff to get it all going in the same direction,” quarterback Matt Ryan told reporters. “To me, that’s the key – for all of us to be on the same page and be moving in the same direction, and we are.” Atlanta’s losing streak began with a 23-20 overtime loss at home against Tampa Bay in Week 8, starting a string of three wins in five games for the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay had its two-game winning streak snapped with a 25-12 loss at Indianapolis last week but is just one game behind Atlanta and Seattle for the second wild card.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX.
LINE: Buccaneers -1. O/U: 46
ABOUT THE FALCONS (6-5): Atlanta’s offensive production dropped off dramatically after the 5-0 start, and turnovers have been a major reason with 19 in the last seven games. Ryan has thrown five interceptions in his last two contests and finished with a season-low 230 passing yards to go with two picks in last week’s 20-10 loss to Minnesota. The Falcons have been decent defensively but were gashed for a season-high 191 rushing yards last week and have allowed over 100 on the ground in three of their last four games.
ABOUT THE BUCCANEERS (5-6): Tampa Bay has taken much better care of the ball of late, as rookie quarterback Jameis Winston has shown dramatic improvement. Winston has thrown three interceptions in his last seven games after being picked off seven times in his first four contests, and Doug Martin (1,038 yards, three touchdowns) has helped take the pressure off him. The Bucs’ defense has been inconsistent but has shown flashes of brilliance against the run, holding four opponents to 55 yards or fewer on the ground.
1. Falcons RB Devonta Freeman (concussion) is expected to play after missing last week’s game.
2. The Bucs had recorded at least one turnover in every game before being held without a takeaway last week at Indianapolis.
3. Atlanta WR Julio Jones, who leads the NFL in catches (94) and receiving yards (1,245) has 29 receptions for 442 yards and three touchdowns in his last three games against Tampa Bay.
PREDICTION: Falcons 23, Buccaneers 20