What: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9) vs. Atlanta Falcons (9-5)
Where: Raymond James Stadium
When: 8:30 p.m.
Latest line/Over-under: Buccaneers +6.5/49
Why you should watch
Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter walked off the Raymond James Stadium field at the end of his team’s loss to the Lions last week to a chorus of boos and “We want Jon Gruden’’ chants. Well, those fans that want Gruden so badly are going to get their wish. And what an awkward moment that figures to be. As the Bucs begin to wrap up their seventh losing season since Gruden was fired nine years ago, Gruden will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor at halftime of this game. That should make for interesting theater. Unfortunately, the theater will probably be more interesting than the game. This is one that might better watched on TV just to see how Gruden responds to talk about all the rumors that have him replacing Koetter as the Bucs next coach.
Key on: The Buccaneers secondary
Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (above) had one of the best games of his career against this group the last time they met. The Bucs tried virtually every coverage in their playbook – 14 in all, according to Koetter – but had no answer for Jones, as he caught 12 of the 15 passes that were thrown his way for 253 yards and two touchdowns. That’s an unconscionable number, especially you consider that if there’s anyone who should know how to stop Jones it’s Koetter and Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith. After all, they used to coach him. How the Bucs respond to what has become one of the seminal moments of the season could be critical to Smith’s future. If the Bucs can’t figure out a way to contain Jones yet again, it may be an indication the game has passed Smith by.
Buccaneers running back Doug Martin is having another “off’’ season, the fourth of his six-year career. Poor blocking up front has been a big part of the problem, but Martin hasn’t run the way he’s capable of either. When he’s at his best Martin gains a lot of extra yards after contact, but he’ll go into this game ranked 43rd out of 51 running backs in average yards gained after contact per attempt (2.26), according to Pro Football Focus. Peyton Barber has been the Bucs most productive back the past two games, gaining 165 yards on 35 carries (4.7) and he’s gained a lot of those yards (116) after contact. With the Bucs O-line struggling to open holes the Bucs need a back who can make yards on his own, and right now that back is Barber.
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