NFL 2017 Week 15: Atlanta Falcons vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers preview and prediction

The Falcons head south to Tampa Bay on Monday night to take on the disappointing Bucs.

The Falcons took on New Orleans on Thursday Night Football last week and won a vital game 20-17. Devonta Freeman had a big day as he ran for 91 yards to keep the chains moving and make up for a very shaky day from Matt Ryan. However, the star of the show was Atlanta’s defense which flew around the field and kept the Saints in check all night. Deion Jones led the way with 13 tackles and an interception.

The Bucs lost to the Lions 24-21 last week after a late flurry was thwarted. Tampa’s defense had a tough time slowing the Lions down, and while they forced three turnovers they also gave up 434 yards and 21 first downs. The Bucs were down 21-7 in the fourth quarter but Jameis Winston led a furious comeback with touchdowns to OJ Howard and Leonard Wester, only for Matt Prater to kick a game-winner from 46 yards out with 20 seconds left.

Fate in their own hands

If the Falcons win out, they win the NFC South, that’s right, despite a disappointing season the Falcons can still very much retain the division. Their mission started last week with the win over New Orleans, and now they are well rested for Tampa Bay. They play the Saints again next week and finish with Carolina. It’s a tough road, but doable.

Have a plan this time

Last time these two sides met Julio Jones shredded the Bucs for 253 yards as the Falcons won comfortably 34-20. This week Tampa’s defensive coordinator has to have a plan for Jones, because just leaving his guys on an island with him is a recipe for disaster, especially when Tampa generate so little pass rush.

Hot seat

2017 was going to be the year Tampa Bay came good and challenged for the playoffs. Instead they have collapsed. A five-game losing streak put them at 2-6 and they never really recovered. Dirk Koetter has come under heavy fire for the lack of consistency, the continued mental errors by Jameis Winston, and an overall disappointing year. He has three very tough divisional games in which to save his job.

Matchup to Watch: Everyone vs Julio Jones

It’s obvious, but this is the one to watch. Jones is a monster and can do things on a football field that no one else is capable of. The Bucs have played poor defense all year and there is a chance that he goes off again. Just keep your eyes on #11.

Fantasy Tip: Bucs RB Peyton Barber

The Falcons have struggled to slow teams on the ground this year, and with Doug Martin being awful all year Peyton Barber has seen 35 carries in his last two games. He averaged 4.6 yards on those carries, so give him a start and cross your fingers that he finds the endzone this week.

Betting Tip: Falcons (-6)

I’d like this line even if it was four points higher. The Falcons have been inconsistent on offense, especially passing the ball, but they are far better than Tampa and absolutely have to win.

Prediction: Falcons 31 – 20 Buccaneers

An easy win for Atlanta, with Julio Jones both creating yards himself and for others. Look for another big game from the Falcons defense as they aim to replicate their run from last season.

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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.