Twice the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have played games where the team had a chance to make a statement to the rest of the league. Both times the Bucs failed to measure up, but they have another opportunity to prove themselves as contenders on Sunday.
Losses to the Eagles and Lions weren't great looks, but a win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday would solidify the Bucs place atop the NFC South standings.
The Bucs come into Week 7 with a one game lead over the Falcons, with a win further distancing them ahead of everyone else in the division. New Orleans lost on Thursday night, falling to 3-3 and two games behind Tampa Bay thanks to a partial tiebreaker. Beating Atlanta is crucial to not only maintainig control of the NFC South but also reminding the rest of the league that the Bucs aren't done cooking after getting burned a few times early in the season.
Atlanta is hardly on the level of Philly or Detroit, but the context of the win would go a long way in helping the Bucs bounce back from a rough week -- and help set them up for a tough upcoming schedule.
What time do the Bucs play today?
After Sunday, the Bucs have a quick turnaround and head up to Bufflo for a Thursday night game against the Bills. It's a brutal position for the team to be in, as they'll once again be tasked with matching up against one of the best teams in the league but will do so on a short week.
Like the Eagles game, the Bucs don't need to neccessarily beat the Bills to walk away with a victory. What Tampa Bay can't afford is another game like the one it played last Sunday against the Lions, where the team looked every bit like the lowly bunch experts predicted they'd be during the offseason.
Before we get there, though, the Bucs need to take care of business against a division rival that always plays them tough. Atlanta's run game is perhaps it's most menacing offensive force, with Bijan Robinson already looking like a stud draft pick.
That's where the Bucs can start to re-assert their dominance. Tampa Bay's run defense is among the very best in the entire league, and a solid game against a great running back is where the road to success starts.
Baker Mayfield needs to play better, too. He was awful against the Lions and a bounce-back game at home would go a long way in rebuilding some of the energy that helped carry the team over the first quarter of the season.
Here's everything you need to know to catch today's crucial Bucs-Falcons showdown:
- Date: Sunday, October 22nd
- Start Time: 1:00 pm ET
- Location: Raymond James Stadium
- TV Channel: FOX
- Announcers: Chris Myers, Mark Schlereth
- Radio: WXTB 97.9 FM | More Affiliates
- Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Beating the Falcons isn't just important in terms of the standings, it's the only way the Bucs can enter the upcoming stretch of the schedule with any hope of competing. Tampa Bay gets games against Buffalo, Houston, and Tennessee before playing San Francisco -- going into that stretch off two straight losses puts the team in an almost impossible position.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers injury report for Week 7
While the Buccaneers head into Sunday as healthy as they've been all season, one big name to keep an eye on is Vita Vea.
He was listed as a limited participant at practice on Friday and is officially questionable with a foot injury. Aside from Vea, the Bucs will have almost everyone healthy enough to play without an injury designation as both Mike Evans and Lavonte David were held out of practice simply to rest rather than an injury.
Here's the Bucs final injury report ahead of Sunday's game:
Not having Vea against the Falcons run game is a bit of a nightmare scenario, but it sounds like he'll be healthy enough to at least factor into things.