Its impossible to overstate how much is on the line for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 14.
If the Bucs manage to beat the Falcons, it would flip the NFC South standings and put Tampa Bay back in first place. It would also mean the last four games of the season will decide whether the Bucs punch a playoff ticket as division winners, a Wild Card team, or if they end up missing out entirely.
A loss on Sunday seemingly expedites the latter.
Tampa Bay losing would mean the Falcons own a full tiebreaker, but it would also essentially sink the Bucs out of the Wild Card chase. Things are starting to narrow as the season enters the home stretch, and the Bucs are going to need all the help they can get if they want to pull off a miracle and make the playoffs.
Is Vita Vea playing today for the Buccaneers?
If the Bucs want to win, they'll need Pro Bowler Vita Vea healthy. That's one of the biggest questions heading into Sunday's game, as he was officially listed as questionable on the final injury report ahead of the weekend.
Unfortunately the wishful thinking didn't pan out. Vea was listed among the Bucs inactives ahead of kickoff.
He's only missed one game so far this year, and his absence is noticeable. Against the Bills, Tampa Bay's run defense was gashed by both James Cook and Josh Allen who combined for 108 yards and a touchdown. It wasn't just that the totals were a bigh higher than they had been, it was how the Bills were so easily able to move the ball without Vea plugging up the middle of the front.
That's something the Bucs are going to miss against Bijan Robinson, who is primed to break out in his first true showdown with Tampa Bay. He was comically underused in the first meeting, with Arthur Smith citing an illness as the reason why, but he's started to show why the Falcons took him in the Top 10 this year as of late.