This week the Bucs take on the visiting Falcons. That means we again get the expertise of Roger Hendler who was one of the few experts to correctly predict Tampa Bay’s upset win in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome. Let’s see how Roger sees this one playing out.
LH : Roger, take as long as you want with this one. Why has it gone south for the Falcons so fast since they lost to Tampa Bay?
RH : A couple of factors have surfaced since the GA Dome loss to the Bucs. Leads could not be held, Matt Ryan forcing passes into “no fly zones”, injuries (Devonta Freeman), and lack of production by receivers other than Julio Jones.
LH : It seems to some of our guys, and me as well, that there may be a rift developing between QB Matt Ryan and OC Kyle Shanahan. Are you seeing any evidence if that?
RH : This is a topic being addressed on Atlanta sports radio. I agree that Shanahan wants Matt to do things that are not in his makeup (running more). No huddle is a Ryan weapon and not being used enough. To quote you, look at the QBs that Shanahan has destroyed.
LH : Thanks for the prop, Roger. Falcons started 5-0 but four of those victories were against the NFC East and we’ve seen how dreadful that division has been. Was it smoke and mirrors for Atlanta in the early season and we’re just seeing what they really are now?
RH : It was “smoke and mirrors”. Not much was expected from the Falcons in 2016 and they surprised us. Eagles and Giants games should have been losses. I left early from the Colts game and thought Falcons had it won. Obviously, I was wrong. Falcons always have trouble with the Saints at home and away.
LH : It seems like the defense has improved over last year but that’s not saying much. In what areas is the Atlanta’s defense better than last year?
RH : You are right on, Leo. The defense has improved especially with the front 7. Offensive line remains in transition. Jake Long has not been a factor as yet.
LH : WR Roddy White is getting up in age. How much tread is left on his tires?
RH : Rowdy is a great player and person. He was vocal early in the season when he stated he wanted more passes to him. He still has some tread but it is in decline. He is 34 and has 11 years experience. Hits have taken their toll on Roddy.
LH : There’s been some questionable coaching decisions this season in Hotlanta. What’s your assessment of the job done so far by Dan Quinn?
RH : I believe Dan Quinn will be a very successful head coach. He brings enthusiasm, etc. People forget Mike Smith was a defensive coordinator prior to coming to Atlanta. Smith’s record had five straight winning seasons and several NFC South titles. Hopefully, Quinn will exceed these successes.
LH : Ok, Roger, I’m picking the Dirty Birds to come south and beat the Bucs with a late field goal because the Pewter Pirates can’t stand prosperity. What’s your call on who wins and why?
RH : You may be correct. I again pick the Bucs over the Falcons as I believe your Bucs liked the taste of winning and will rebound from last week. The Falcons have a rough road as they face the Panthers twice within two weeks (three games). They should win the Jacksonville game and possibly the Saints game in the GA Dome to finish the 2016 season. This season started out very encouraging but may end 8 and 8 which was acceptable prior to the season.