The end of the NFL’s regular-season 2020 is here with the Week 17 slate of games and what many thought would be impossible, was made possible. Not one single game throughout the season ended up being canceled nor did the league have to add a Week 18, which was something many called for with the multiple postponements that occurred due to the coronavirus pandemic that’s continued. Nonetheless, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be playing beyond Week 17 for the first time since 2007 and the feeling was met with an exclamation mark in Detroit this past weekend. Tampa Bay hung up 34 points in the first half en route to a 47-7 blowout win over the hapless Lions, who were without interim head coach Darrell Bevell and quarterback Matthew Stafford played just one series before exiting with a foot injury. Now the Buccaneers will shift their attention to the Atlanta Falcons, who have played very hard under interim head coach Raheem Morris down the stretch. Atlanta narrowly lost 17-14 to the Kansas City Chiefs and if not for a missed Younghoe Koo kick, might’ve taken the defending champions into overtime. We take a closer look now at some keys to Sunday’s game against the Falcons.
Slow down Calvin Ridley
This was a big problem for the Buccaneers the last time they played Atlanta. Ridley racked up 163 yards on 10 catches when he faced Tampa Bay’s secondary the last time around and the second-year player is still amongst the league’s best. The Buccaneers’ will have to employ multiple looks against the Falcons in order to slow down the production of Ridley. If Matt Ryan and Ridley develop a connection early in the ball game, it could be a long day for Tampa Bay’s defense.
Tom Brady, offense is humming
If the last game has told us anything about Tampa Bay, it’s that the offense is humming now with Brady at the controls. The 43-year old has set a new team record for touchdowns in a single season with 36 and could be adding to those totals against an Atlanta defense that ranks in the bottom five versus the pass. Brady went 22-of-27 for 348 yards and four touchdowns in the first half versus the Lions, but they were also without multiple defensive staff members. The future Hall of Famer did throw for a season-high 390 yards against the Falcons a couple of weeks ago and could be primed to go off again.
Lockup the No. 5 seed
A win versus the Falcons and Tampa Bay locks themselves into the highest Wild-Card seed at No. 5. Why it may mean something more this season is because the NFC East is currently, record-wise, the worst in the NFL and the team to emerge from the division may not have seven wins when it’s all said and done. Washington Football Team could win the division at 7-9 but a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and a win by the New York Giants over the Dallas Cowboys could put the Giants into the postseason at 6-10. The Cowboys need to win and a WFT loss to put Dallas into the playoffs. Nonetheless, whoever wins the NFC East, Tampa Bay at the No. 5 seed would figure to be the favorite to win.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.