Even with a 2-6 record, the Atlanta Falcons are just two games behind the division-leading New Orleans Saints in the race for the NFC South crown.
It almost seems impossible that the Falcons mathematically still have a chance to win the NFC South and advance to the playoffs, but that’s an indictment on how poor the division has been this season.
Atlanta’s chance at a turnaround through the second half of the season begins with a road game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It’s also a chance for the Falcons to improve to 3-0 in the division.
The Bucs (1-7) were the last team the Falcons defeated. After crushing the Bucs 56-14 back in Week 3, the Falcons looked like a dangerous team.
But the Falcons went on to drop five straight, culminating in a 22-21 loss against the Detroit Lions in London two weeks ago. Atlanta jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first half but was shut out in the second half as Detroit kicked a game-winning field goal on the last play.
Bucs head coach Lovie Smith is switching quarterbacks, going from second-year Mike Glennon back to 12-year veteran Josh McCown for Sunday’s matchup. McCown’s last start came against Atlanta, and that didn’t go too well.
Tampa Bay also presents a prime opportunity for the Falcons to curb their road troubles. Atlanta is 1-10 through it past 11 road games with the sole win coming against the Buffalo Bills in Toronto last season.
This season, the Falcons have dropped road games to the Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, and Baltimore Ravens. In each of those four games, Atlanta lost by at least two scores and put up a paltry 16.2 points per game.
The Falcons have also been woeful in the fourth quarter – both on the road and at home – scoring just 24 points in said quarter on the season. Compare that to the opponents’ 84 points. In the past seven games, that discrepancy increases significantly with Atlanta being outscored by opposing teams, 70-7.
The interior of Atlanta’s injury-ravaged offensive line will have its hands full with stud defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Last season in Tampa Bay, McCoy was a terror and racked up six sacks by his lonesome.
Atlanta’s at a sizable disadvantage with undrafted rookie center James Stone making just his second start.
Ultimately, it boils down to this: the Falcons are a bad team, but the Bucs are worse. And although it’s an away game, I think Atlanta earns its first road win of the season.