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Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons: Storylines, prediction for an NFC South clash with major playoff implications

In this Week 13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons matchup, what are the main storylines, the current NFL odds, and our prediction?

What is our prediction for a Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons matchup that has playoff implications for both teams in Week 13? Let’s take a look at the storylines that will shape this Buccaneers vs. Falcons matchup, the NFL odds, and make a prediction for how the game might go.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons prediction | Storylines for Week 13

These two teams are in very different spots entering Week 13, but both are fighting for playoff positioning, making this game somewhat spicy. No team in the league has scored more points than the Buccaneers, while the Falcons’ offense has managed just 24 points in total over the past three weeks. The Buccaneers have only scored fewer points in a single game twice this season.

The fact that both teams are in the NFC playoff picture makes this game more important than it perhaps feels. A loss for the Falcons will not push them out of the picture, but it will leave them needing to be almost perfect in the final five weeks. On the other hand, a victory here would make a huge statement. For the Buccaneers, a victory here gives them a great chance to compete for the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a soft schedule down the stretch.

Can the Buccaneers run game grind down the Falcons?

The Falcons’ run defense has really struggled this season. They’ve held opposing offenses under 100 yards rushing just twice, and not since they did so to the Jets in Week 5 in London. Intriguingly, one of the two teams they held under 100 rushing yards was the Buccaneers, who managed just 82 yards in their Week 2 matchup.

The Buccaneers’ run game has been extremely up and down this season. In the first three weeks, they averaged just 56 rushing yards per game. They then went over 100 rushing yards in the next four games and appeared to have worked things out. However, between Weeks 8 and 11 they’ve averaged just 73 rushing yards per game.

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Then, last week they seemed to get themselves back on track. While their passing offense struggled, the Bucs rushed for 142 yards, with 4 of their 5 touchdowns coming on the ground. Ignoring Tom Brady’s contribution in the run game, the Buccaneers averaged 5.6 yards per rush attempt against the Colts.

We have seen over the years how dangerous a Brady-led offense can be when it gets the run game clicking. Heading down the stretch into the playoffs, the Buccaneers will hope they can use their run game to control the clock and ensure their pass rush is fresh and rested to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. If the Buccaneers can control the game on the ground this week against the Falcons, this matchup should go exactly as many predictions have it shaping out.

Can the Falcons take advantage of the Buccaneers’ struggles defending third downs?

Overall this season, Tampa Bay has had their troubles on third down. They’ve allowed a 22nd-ranked 40.9% conversion rate. That is an area the Falcons have to exploit. If the Falcons give the Buccaneers’ offense too much time on the field, Brady will quickly figure out how to unpick a defense that has allowed the second-most points this season.

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The problem for the Falcons is they are on an ugly run when it comes to converting third downs. In the past four weeks, Atlanta has converted just 13 of their 47 third-down opportunities (28%). If you look at the two games they lost — against the Cowboys and Patriots — they went 3-for-22 on third down (13.6%). Overall on the season, the Falcons are converting a 19th-ranked 38.7% of third-down opportunities.

The Falcons have a lot to figure out in the coming weeks

Beyond a prediction for this game between the Falcons and Buccaneers is Atlanta’s long-term future. Arthur Smith is in his first year as head coach, and while there have been bright spots, there’s still a lot to figure out. While the Falcons are still very much in the playoff picture this year, their fans are likely under no illusion that they could represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

Therefore, the focus down the stretch for Atlanta needs to be on working out their future. Matt Ryan’s contract is a big part of that with him due to count $48.7 million against the cap in 2022. According to PFN’s Offensive Value Metric, 2021 has been the season that Ryan has provided the least value to the Falcons offense. With no clear-cut QB options in the 2022 class, Ryan should be in Atlanta next year, but his future beyond that is uncertain.

There are then questions smattered all over the offense. The future of Calvin Ridley is unknown. Russell Gage, Cordarrelle Patterson, Tajae Sharpe, and Hayden Hurst are all free agents this offseason. The offensive line has some stability in terms of their contracts, but all of them are fighting for jobs in 2022 and beyond.

On defense, there are question marks at all three levels. Pass rushers Steven Means, Dante Fowler Jr., and Brandon Copeland are all free agents after this season. The situation is the same with LB Foyesade Oluokun, CBs Fabian Moreau and Isaiah Oliver, as well as safeties Erik Harris and Duron Harmon. The ones who are healthy down the stretch are fighting not just for contracts in Atlanta but a spot elsewhere in the NFL going forward.

Buccaneers at Falcons betting line and game prediction

  • Spread: Buccaneers -10.5 (odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
  • Moneyline: Buccaneers -525, Falcons +385
  • Total: 50.5

Given the way the Falcons have been playing the past three weeks, it’s no surprise that the sportsbooks expect them to lose comfortably in this one. The Buccaneers have by no means looked convincing in their past four games, but they demonstrated how they handle teams lower down the NFC picture with their 30-10 victory over the Giants.

In fact, when the Buccaneers have come up against potentially tricky games against NFC opponents in the past six weeks, they’ve handled them with ease. Granted both of those were at home. But a trip to Atlanta is not all that terrifying for the Buccaneers.

The Falcons’ best chance to win this game is through Patterson and finding success on third downs. If they can tire the Buccaneers’ pass rush, they have a chance to put up points later in the game. However, it’s hard to see how they can really do that with their offensive line and the struggles on offense. Look for the Buccaneers to win by at least a touchdown and most likely much more.

Buccaneers vs. Falcons Prediction: Buccaneers 28, Falcons 17

Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN.

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