NFL 2017 Week 12: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Atlanta Falcons preview and prediction

The Falcons are rounding into form. Can they put away the Bucs before their schedule gets tough?

Tampa Bay played their makeup game for Week 1’s postponed Miami fixture last week, winning 30-20. The defense turned in one of its best performances of the year, forcing five turnovers and knocking Jay Cutler out of the game. While they did allow three long plays, they mostly kept the lid on the Dolphins offense, while Ryan Fitzpatrick turned in one of his good performances. With Jameis Winston still out the backup threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns to carry the team as the running game once again stumbled.

Atlanta went into Seattle for a Monday Night Football game and came away with a hard-fought 34-31 win. With Seattle’s secondary battered, the Falcons offense started to look more like its old self. Matt Ryan was 19 of 27 for 195 yards and two touchdowns, but Tevin Coleman struggled on the ground, managing just 43 yards on 20 carries. Andre Roberts made a big difference in the return game, consistently putting the Falcons in good field position.

Have to win

The Falcons sit at 6-4 and are currently the #6 seed in the NFC, but they have a whole host of teams nipping at their heels. Outside of this and their Week 15 return match in Tampa, they have a horrorshow of a run-in. Two games against the 8-2 Saints, a game against the 8-2 Vikings, and they finish against the 7-3 Panthers. The Falcons absolutely must win this game if they want a playoff spot.

Running game

Devonta Freeman is still in the concussion protocol at the time of writing, and after Coleman’s tough outing against the Seahawks it is very possible that we see more of Terron Ward, who got six carries and a catch on Monday for 42 total yards. He looked good, spinning off contact and barrelling through would-be tacklers. He provides a nice powerful change to Coleman’s speed.

Is there any fight left?

Tampa were as hyped up as any team coming into 2017, but they now sit at a wildly disappointing 4-6. Jameis Winston is still out and the defense has massively struggled against the pass. They can’t rush the passer which has hung the secondary out to dry and destroyed their season.

There is a lot of pressure on Dirk Koetter now, and the question is does this team have any fight left in them to perform for their coach?

Matchup to Watch: Desmond Trufant vs Mike Evans

2017 has been a year to forget for Evans, who has played well in fits and starts, but overall his 45 catches and 624 yards so far have to be considered a disappointment. This week sees him going against Desmond Trufant, who is also looking to re-establish himself as a top player at his position. After missing most of 2016, Trufant hasn’t been able to reach the peaks of coverage he did in 2015. Can these two rediscover their form against one another?

Fantasy Tip: Falcons RB Terron Ward

With no one on a bye you shouldn’t be too desperate for a starting back, but if you have a lot of injuries or are in a very deep league then he could be worth a roll of the dice should Freeman not be cleared by Sunday.

Betting Tip: Falcons (-10)

Double digits is a lot, but I have no faith in the Bucs defense being able to keep this one close, and the Falcons defense is fast enough to feast on Ryan Fitzpatrick’s inconsistencies.

Prediction: Falcons 34 – 20 Buccaneers

This is a must-win game for the Falcons, and I think it will be a comfortable one in the end. Matt Ryan is starting to heat up and Steve Sarkisian seems to be finding his rhythm as a playcaller at last.

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Toby Durant

Deputy Editor at RealSport. A life-long gamer, I have been with RealSport since 2016 and spent time covering the world of Formula 1, NFL, and football for the site before expanding into esports.


I lead the site's coverage of motorsport titles with a particular focus on Formula 1. I also lead RealSport's Madden content while occasionally dipping my toe into Football Manager and esports coverage of Gfinity Series events.