@TSFSports NFL Thursday Night Football preview and prediction: Bucs need more than a good showing against the Falcons


The Buccaneers pass rush may have to get to Matt Ryan minus the disruptive Gerald McCoy.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2) head to Georgia to take on the Atlanta Falcons (1-0). The Bucs are looking to post their first win of the season after losing their first two contests by a total of eight points. The Falcons are looking to rebound after taking a physical pounding from the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday.

What the Falcons need to do to win: Matt Ryan is darn-near flawless at home. In Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints, Ryan passed for a franchise record 448 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-34 overtime victory over the New Orleans Saints — who are favored to win the NFC South this season. If Tampa is without defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (hand), the Falcons may be able to get their ground attack going. The Falcons are averaging 110 yards per contest so far this season. Steven Jackson has only carried the ball 23 times in the first two games. Wide receiver Roddy White is questionable, so this could be a big night for Devin Hester who had 99 yards in the opener against the Saints, but was shut down last week against an aggressive Bengals defense. Julio Jones remains the go-t0 guy in this explosive unit. Matt Ryan thew three picks and was sacked twice last week.

The Falcons have to slow down Bucs running back Bobby Rainey — who had a big day in a losing effort against the St. Louis Rams. If the secondary can keep Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams from getting down field while applying pressure on Bucs quarterback Josh McCown, this could be a simple win for Atlanta.

What the Bucs must do to win: If he’s able to go, run Bobby Rainey into exhaustion. The Falcons were gashed for 170 yards on the ground against the Bengals. Keeping the explosive Falcons offense off the field is key. Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams caught eight balls between them last week, that’s not going to extend any drives in what could be looked at as an early season must win game. The Falcons defense is giving up nearly 500 yards per game so the opportunity for production is there.

Tampa cannot allow the Falcons to draw off a noisy home crowd. Getting off the field on third down is a must for this young defense. Period.

Prediction: So far this season the Falcons defense has allowed huge numbers on the ground and through the air. It would be a shame if Bobby Rainey (knee) is unable to go tonight, Rainey represents the key to the Bucs offensive fortunes. If not the Bucs are going to have to look for turnovers, something the Falcons don’t do often at home.

Falcons 27 – Bucs 13


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