Falcons dump Bucs to stay in NFC South chase

Falcons dump Bucs to stay in NFC South chase

The Bucs, meanwhile, opened as a 4-point home underdog but the line was bet up almost three points and now the Falcons are -6.5. The 8-5 Falcons find themselves back in playoff contention after winning four of their last five contests.

The Atlanta Falcons leapt back into a playoff spot after defeating the New Orleans Saints in Week 14. This will mark the second meeting between these teams in the last three weeks.

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has nothing to play for but pride, so they will be looking to play the role of spoiler in primetime.

And Tampa Bay enters Monday night's game with the worst passing defense in the NFL. The Bucs answered on Jameis Winston's 16-yard pass to Adam Humphries with 4:07 to play.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan wasn't great - 17 of 31 for 212 yards with a touchdown and zero interceptions - but the Falcons leaned on their ground game against a depleted Bucs defense.

The additions of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard, to go along with Pro Bowler Mike Evans and rising tight end Cameron Brate, were supposed to transcend the Tampa Bay passing game from good to great, but that has yet to really materialize.

Because the Bucs have Winston, they could have a bounceback season in 2018 - provided they can stay relatively healthy.

The question now is, can the Falcons close out with strong efforts against the Saints and Panthers? Atlanta has been inconsistent offensively this season but as we know, the Falcons have a ton of firepower on that said of the ball in Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Devonta Freeman.

The day after that game, Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter summed up what went wrong. And, well, the Falcons are way better than Tampa Bay.

Freeman also caught five passes for a team-high 68 yards and had a first-half fumble recovered in the end zone by teammate Levine Toilolo for a touchdown. Gerald McCoy (biceps), Lavonte David (hamstring) and Vernon Hargreaves (hamstring) are out. The defense also had linebacker Devante Bond (stinger), safety Justin Evans (ankle) and defensive end Robert Ayers (stinger) leave the game.

In becoming the first player in National Football League history with three games of at least 250 receiving yards (no other player has more than one), Jones set a Tampa Bay record for the most receiving yards for an opposing player, breaking the former mark by 54 yards. Freeman and running back Terron Ward are able to decimate the Buccaneers' front-seven en route to victory.

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