The Atlanta Falcons are a different team since their bye week and look to put the clamps on a third straight opponent when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Atlanta yielded an average of 31.3 points in losing seven of its first eight games before realizing its defensive potential with consecutive victories at New Orleans 26-9 and at Carolina 29-3.
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"This was the defense we expected to be playing from the start of the season," Falcons cornerback Isaiah Oliver told reporters. "Guys are communicating more and getting to the ball quicker. But in terms of the schemes, everything is the same." Atlanta has won five straight in the series with an average of nearly 60 combined points scored in those games and since Tampa Bay is last in the NFL in points allowed at 31.3 per contest, Sunday's game could become a shootout if the Buccaneers' Jameis Winston takes care of the ball. That is a big if, though, as the fifth-year quarterback has thrown an NFL-most 18 interceptions - including four in a 34-17 loss to New Orleans last week - and has eight fumbles over the last five games. "I think the hardest thing to teach in this league is a quarterback who can get himself out of trouble and make some plays," quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen told reporters after Tampa Bay lost for the fifth time in six games. "... When do you cut your losses and get rid of the ball and punt it? These guys are wired such that it's hard for them to give up on a play. You know, I get frustrated like he does, like fans do, like everybody does. ..."
TV: 1 p.m., FOX. LINE: Falcons -4 O/U: 51.5
ABOUT THE BUCCANEERS (3-7): Winston, who is nursing an ankle injury, has thrown for more than 300 yards in five straight games - a franchise record and the longest active streak in the NFL. Mike Evans made eight catches in his last two games after recording 23 - three for touchdowns - in the previous two contests. Linebacker Shaquil Barrett has 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in five road games this season.
ABOUT THE FALCONS (3-7): Matt Ryan (69.2 percent completion rate, 18 touchdown passes, nine interceptions) moved past Warren Moon and into 10th place all-time with 49,383 yards after throwing for 311 with a score last week. Wide receiver Julio Jones has 102 catches for 1,695 yards and 11 TDs in 14 games against Tampa Bay - all the most versus any opponent. Atlanta has the third-worst rushing offense in the league at 74.5 yards per game with top producer Devonta Freeman averaging 41.2.
1. Winston, who grew up about 160 miles from Atlanta in Bessemer, Ala., told reporters there will be about 80 family members present Sunday.
2. Atlanta WR Calvin Ridley matched a career best with eight catches last week while registering 143 yards and a touchdown, giving him eight TDs in eight career games versus the NFC South.
3. Buccaneers TE Cameron Brate had a career-high 10 receptions last week after recording 15 in the first nine games.
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News Breaking News
Key Players to Watch
- FootQues Mon | questionable
Sheffield has sat out the previous three games due to a foot injury, and it is unknown if he will suit up Monday versus the Packers.
- IllnessOut indefinitely | I-R
Terrell Smith has been designated for the Injured Reserve/COVID-19 list and will be sidelined for an indefinite period.
- HamstringQues Mon | questionable
Oluokun was held out of the last game with cramping in his hamstring, and it is undetermined if he will be ready for Monday's clash versus the Packers.
- GroinOut indefinitely | out
Koo will miss an undetermined length of time due to a groin strain.
- GroinQues Mon | questionable
McKinley missed the last game due to a groin injury, and it is unknown if he will participate in Monday's matchup against the Packers.
- KneeQues Mon | questionable
McGary missed the last game due to an MCL sprain, and his availability for Monday's tilt against the Packers is up in the air.
- HipQues Mon | questionable
Jarrett departed the previous game with a hip injury, and it is uncertain if he will line up versus the Packers on Monday.
- HamstringQues Mon | questionable
Jones is managing a left hamstring strain and did not play in the previous game. It has yet to be determined if he will take the field against the Packers on Monday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- HamstringQues Sun | questionable
Bunting left the last game due to a hamstring injury, and it is unknown if he will be active Sunday versus the Chargers.
- HamstringOut Sun | out
Godwin exited the previous game due to a right hamstring injury, and he will not suit up for Sunday's contest versus the Chargers.
- UndisclosedQues Sun | questionable
Fournette is tending to an unspecified injury, leaving his availability for Sunday's battle against the Chargers hazy.
- ShoulderProb Sun | probable
Watson missed the last game due to a shoulder injury, but it is anticipated that he will take the field against the Chargers on Sunday.
- KneeQues Sun | questionable
Smith is nursing a knee injury, and it has yet to be determined if he will line up Sunday against the Broncos.
- HamstringProb Sun | probable
Motley has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury, but he is projected to be available Sunday against the Broncos.
- KneeProb Sun | probable
Pierre-Paul is dealing with a knee injury, but it is expected that he will be in Sunday's lineup versus the Broncos.
- HipProb Sun | probable
Miller has hip and groin injuries, but he is likely to line up for Sunday's matchup versus the Broncos.