One week after Desmond Ridder had arguably his best game in the NFL, he would struggle mightily in his first home loss since high school. With the growing noise about making a quarterback change in Atlanta, Ridder will have to take his Falcons on the road to play Baker Mayfield and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Coming into this matchup, Atlanta has failed to cover in five straight games, and by the time the late afternoon games come on, I think they will have made it six straight.
Coming out of their bye week to host the Lions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a real chance to make a statement win. Instead, they would fall 20-6 and put up their worst offensive EPA of the season at (-11.72). Baker Mayfield had been playing at a solid level up to that game, but he only managed to complete 51.4% of his passes against the Lions for 206 yards and an interception.
Mayfield will need to play like he did prior to the bye week for the Buccaneers to stay above .500, but at the same time, no matter how good he plays, it’s imperative the Bucs figure out their run game. Tampa Bay ranks dead last in average yards per rush and 29th in average rushing yards per game with just 78.8.
Starting running back Rachaad White has the second-worst rushing yards over expected among eligible running backs, and it won’t get any easier for him this weekend against a Falcons team that ranks in the top half of the league for rush defense. In general, Atlanta’s defense has done what they needed to do in order to keep their team in the game.
Even after allowing 17 first-half points to the Commanders this past weekend, Atlanta responded by holding them to just seven points in the second half. Overall, the Falcons' defense is 14th in points allowed per game but 4th in yards allowed per game, with an average of 278.2.
Just like Mayfield and the Bucs running game, it doesn’t matter how good the Atlanta defense plays if their offense can’t put points on the board. Following their 16-point performance against Washington, the Falcons are 29th in points per game, and with Desmond Ridder’s three interceptions in the losing effort, he’s now sporting a 6:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Looking to get back on track this weekend, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are favored by (-2.5), and I’ll be backing them for my play. Atlanta’s lone strength on offense is their running game, but stopping the run is the strength of the Buccaneers' defense, and with how inconsistent Ridder has been, I don’t think they can do enough offensively to stay in the game.
For as much as the Falcons defense has kept competitive, the best EPA they’ve put up since week one was last week at (.45), and that won’t get the job done this week. It may not always be pretty, but outside of last week, Baker Mayfield has been able to sustain scoring drives, as he has the Buccaneers ranked 11th in third down conversion percentage.
If Mayfield can move the ball downfield a few times, I think his defense, ranked 10th in yards allowed per rush and 7th in rushing yards allowed per game, can limit Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier on the ground. Tampa Bay is also averaging two takeaways per game, so with Ridder’s turnover tendencies, I don’t see them being able to score enough points to stay in the game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5)