Buc Up!…with Rob Kriete – DECEMBER 19

Bucs Football Fans

At 8-5, the Buccaneers travel to Atlanta this weekend to play the Falcons for the first time this season; these division rivals will play each other twice over the last three weeks of the season. Although Atlanta has lost two in a row, they have played much better behind interim head coach and former Buccaneer head coach, Raheem Morris.

-The NFL continues to experience record scoring with 1184 total touchdowns through week 14 of the 2020 season. The Packers lead the league with 52 TDs to go with their league-high 410 points.

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-With the Super Bowl being played in Tampa this season, The Bulldog, Leo Haggerty, of ItsSportsMagazine.com got to talk with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell:
Leo Haggerty: “In Florida, Governor DeSantis has been adamant about opening up stadiums to full capacity, are you getting any pushback on the state level to put more fans into Raymond James for the Super Bowl?”
Roger Goodell: “No, the Governor has been very supportive of, obviously, the Super Bowl, and we were in the state last year for the Super Bowl, and I met with him there. Again, he’s been very supportive of that, but he also understands the importance of doing it safely and responsibly. So, they have been very supportive, and we appreciate that.”

-The NFL had to move games this season due to Covid-19 related issues, but every scheduled game has been played thus far. Raymond James Stadium has been reserved for several weeks after the Super Bowl by the NFL in the event they need to push back the big game. NFL fans are glad this season has gone as smoothly as it has, with fans returning to the games in a limited capacity in most cities.  Knock on wood, right?

-Speaking of which, Tampa Bay RB Ronald Jones, who became the first Buccaneers player since Doug Martin in 2015 to reach 1,000 rushing yards in a season last week, will be out for the game against the Falcons for Covid-19 related issues. Leonard Fournette will receive the lion’s share of carries against Atlanta.

-Leo spoke with Bucs offensive lineman Alex Cappa this week as well:
Leo Haggerty: “When you look at Dallas and Philadelphia this year, their offensive lines have been decimated by injuries, and that may be a major factor as to why they haven’t been winning. How important is it to stay healthy as a group of five for continuity?”
Alex Cappa: “Yeah, it’s really important. I think that’s the most important thing. When you have guys coming in and out a lot, in fact, the two teams you mentioned may be down three or four tackles, there’s just not that many guys that can do it as well. It’s hard when you go that deep. So, yeah, I think it has been good for us.”
Leo Haggerty: “When you look at the Falcons defensive line, is there one guy you need to make sure you know where he is every play?”
Alex Cappa: “Man, I think they’re all good. Obviously, Jarrett lead the charge but, overall, it’s a good group. It makes it challenging. It’s really the whole group.”

-Bucs WR Antonio Brown led the team with five receptions last week in their big victory against the Vikings. Brown had 101 receiving yards and two TDs in his last games against Atlanta while playing for the Steelers.

-Defensively, Jason Pierre- Paul aims for his third game in a row on the road and his 3rd in a row overall with, at least, one sack.

-Gronk had his 5th receiving TD of season last week and aims for his 4th in a row on the road with a TD catch this week.

The ItsSPortsMagazine.com Bulldog caught up with Falcons head coach Raheem Morris as well:

Leo Haggerty: “Knowing that you’re playing in a dome, and the elements are controlled, does that change your practice schedule?”
Raheem Morris: “Leo Haggerty, what’s going on? No, it’s our home so we get used to it. It’s one of those things where you don’t have to change the practice schedule as much. We have a nice indoor facility down near Atlanta. I know you guys finally built one after I left. Thank you for that. Finally built because you have to prepare in all those certain different ways, you know. The team will be ready. They’re getting their day off today but we’ll go fast tomorrow and the next day. Then, obviously, we’re going to play you guys in our brand new home. Not brand new but fairly new home. We can’t wait.”

-Falcons QB, Matt Ryan, has 54,846 passing yards in his 13-year career and surpassed Peyton Manning for most yards by a player in his first 13 seasons in NFL history. Ryan has 18 TDs vs. 4 INTs for a 106.2 rating in 12 career home starts against the Buccaneers. He needs 340 pass yards to become only the second QB in NFL history with ten straight seasons with 4,000+ pass yards and would join Drew Brees on that list.

-The Falcons defense rookie CB A.J. Terrell led the team with career-high 13 tackles and had a forced fumble last week. Terrell will try for his 3rd game in a row with a forced fumble.

-Division games are always challenging to predict as these contests are always close. The Falcons began the season winless in their first five games, but have played well since Coach Morris has taken over the team going 4 – 4 in their last eight games. The Bucs are trying to establish themselves as a playoff team and as a force in the postseason. A strong game on both sides of the ball will be necessary against Atlanta to begin to make that case. The Tampa Bay defense showed improvement last week against Minnesota and looks to build on it in Sunday’s contest by keeping the outstanding Falcons kicker, Younghoe Koo, relegated to long field goals.

-Thank you to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the use of photos used in this column.

Prediction: Bucs 31 – Falcons 19