Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons Pick & Prediction JANUARY 8th 2023

Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Stadium Atlanta
Logo Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Logo Atlanta Falcons

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers reached one of their goals with one game to spare. They'll play against the Falcons on Sunday afternoon in Atlanta to finish the regular season.

"We've had an up-and-down year," Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles said. "We've had some tough losses. We've had some tough wins. We've earned it."

Tampa Bay has won consecutive NFC South titles for the first time in club history. The Buccaneers (8-8) will be playing a week after clinching the divisional crown and a home playoff spot for the opening week of the postseason.

The Falcons (6-10) will try to avoid last place in the division. They're tied with the Carolina Panthers, who visit the 7-9 New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Those three teams could end up tied just a game behind Tampa Bay with Carolina and Atlanta victories to end the season.

The Buccaneers had to have a playoff mentality the past few weeks in what seemed like must-win situations. So the trip to Atlanta will be a deviation from that.

"All the games matter to us," Bowles said. "We try to win them all. We're going into it with everybody expecting to play."

Bowles said there's no time to relax because that lack of urgency could seep into the mindset for a team that needs to shore up several areas.

"You want to be cleaned up by the time you get to the playoffs," Bowles said. "If they take that week off, they're not going to be ready the next week. We just want to play a solid overall game."

There are a couple of depth-chart changes for the Buccaneers, with running back Rachaad White and tight end Cade Otton listed as starters. White has been pretty much sharing the main role with veteran Leonard Fournette.

Receiver Mike Evans has been racking up accolades at a record clip. Coming off his second career 200-yard receiving day (10 catches, 207 yards, three touchdowns) last Sunday in the team's comeback win over Carolina, he has nine seasons in a row with at least 1,000 receiving yards.

"It's a credit to his work ethic," Bowles said. "He still competes to this day."

After last week's 20-19 home victory against Arizona, the Falcons will have a chance to do something they've done only once previously this season -- win back-to-back games.

The Buccaneers and Falcons both posted fourth-quarter comebacks last week. Tampa Bay's division clincher was more notable, with quarterback Tom Brady (425 passing yards, three TD passes) putting together another late-game rally to overcome the Panthers.

But the comeback for the Falcons was valuable for Atlanta rookie QB Desmond Ridder. In his first career win as an NFL starter, he showed that he could come through in the clutch as well.

"If you want to be a big-time quarterback, you need to win on critical third downs in two-minute situations and go win the game like he did right there," Falcons coach Arthur Smith said.

Ridder said it was important to set the right tone.

"You want to let (teammates) see that you're calm and composed and ready to execute," Ridder said.

Ridder said the past few weeks as the starting quarterback have been ideal learning situations. Those are things he's trying to build.

Smith said Ridder has shown signs of what it takes to be a starter in the NFL. His first-season audition comes to a close with Sunday's game.

Tampa Bay defeated the Falcons 21-15 in the fifth week of the season in Tampa, Fla.

--Field Level Media

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Atlanta Falcons

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons Recap JAN 8TH 2023

Rookie Desmond Ridder threw his first two career touchdown passes and Tyler Allgeier rushed for 135 yards as the Atlanta Falcons closed a disappointing season with a 30-17 victory against the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

Atlanta (7-10) scored all of the second half's 20 points to avoid a solo spot in last place in the NFC South.

The Buccaneers (8-9), who clinched the NFC South and a home playoff game a week earlier, were largely tuning up for the postseason. Tampa Bay had 222 yards of total offense.

Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady threw for one touchdown on 13-for-17 passing for 84 yards in first-half action. Blaine Gabbert replaced Brady late in the first half. Gabbert ended up 6-for-8 for 29 yards and Kyle Trask was 3-for-9 for 23 yards.

Ridder, a rookie in his fourth NFL game, completed 19 of 30 passes for 224 yards without an interception. Allgeier had 24 carries.

Younghoe Koo had three field goals, including a 51-yarder in the fourth quarter, to help Atlanta end the season with back-to-back home victories.

The Falcons finished with a 6-3 home record and a season split with Tampa Bay.

Ridder's 3-yard touchdown pass to Olamide Zaccheaus put the Falcons on top with 51 seconds to play in the third quarter. Atlanta stretched its lead to 27-17 on Cordarrelle Patterson's 2-yard run with 8:07 to play.

There was a different tone for most of the first half.

The Buccaneers drove 70 yards on 10 plays on the game's opening possession for a touchdown, with Brady throwing to tight end Kyle Rudolph for an 8-yard scoring play.

The Falcons were up 10-7 by the end of the first quarter. Ridder threw 2 yards to MyCole Pruitt for a touchdown and Koo booted a 49-yard field goal less than three minutes later.

The Buccaneers were back ahead by halftime, holding a 17-10 edge. Ryan Succop kicked a 41-yard field goal before Gabbert found Russell Gage for a 3-yard score with 1:46 left in the half.

--Field Level Media