The Atlanta Falcons visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 15 of the 2017 NFL season. PFF previews the top player matchups of the game.
Coverage by: Bill O'Brien
Matchup: Atlanta Falcons offense vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense:
- WR Julio Jones vs. CB Brent Grimes – Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones had one of the best games of the season for any player so far in 2017 in his previous encounter with Tampa Bay in Week 12. He totaled a jaw-dropping 253 yards in that game en route to an average of 7.67 yards per route run, which was over two yards more than any other receiver in Week 12. The Buccaneers will look to contain Jones this time around and will turn to veteran cornerback Brent Grimes to try to make that happen. Grimes has surrendered the lowest wide receiver rating on the team at 77.5.
- RB Devonta Freeman vs. LB Lavonte David – Falcons running back Tevin Coleman is recovering from a concussion and could be at risk to miss this week’s game. If Coleman were to miss the game or be limited, fellow running back Devonta Freeman would be in line for a larger workload. Freeman is certainly capable of handling an increased role, and he currently ranks fifth among running backs in overall grade (87.3). It will be a battle between two highly graded players, as Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David will be waiting on the Buccaneers’ defense. David is among the league leaders in overall grade among linebackers, rankings third overall at 93.8.
- C Alex Mack vs. DI Gerald McCoy – Buccaneers interior defender Gerald McCoy is one of the best in the business. However, McCoy's health is in question after suffering a bicep injury last week. The veteran is hoping to play through the injury, and he is currently ranked fourth among interior defenders in pass-rush grade (88.0). If McCoy is unable to go, look for fellow interior defenders Chris Baker and Clinton McDonald to see more playing time. The Falcons will look to use center Alex Mack to control the battle up front against the Buccaneers' interior defenders. Mack will certainly make pass-rushing difficult, as he has earned the sixth-best pass-blocking efficiency among centers with a rating of 98.5.
PFFELO Ranking: 25
Coverage by: Bill O'Brien
Matchup: Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense vs. Atlanta Falcons defense
- WR Mike Evans vs. CB Desmond Trufant – Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant has turned in an excellent bounce-back season after injuring his chest in 2016. Trufant has been a tough cornerback to complete a pass against, as he is allowing a reception once every 15.5 snaps in coverage, which currently ranks 11th among cornerbacks. He is likely to see plenty of Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans this week. Evans has not been able to produce to the high standards that he has set throughout his career, but he still has been able to put together the 18th-highest overall grade among receivers with a grade of 82.3.
- RB Doug Martin vs. LB Deion Jones – Buccaneers running back Doug Martin has had a tough time getting going this season. One area where he has struggled is generating yards on his own, as he ranks 43rd out of 51 running backs in yards after contact per attempt (2.26). Falcons linebacker Deion Jones will look to continue to make things difficult for Martin in this week’s matchup. Jones has been one of the best run defenders on the Falcons and has put together a team-high run-stop percentage among linebackers at a rate of 6.9 percent.
- T Donovan Smith vs. Edge Adrian Clayborn – Falcons edge defender Adrian Clayborn has been a bright spot on the Falcons’ defense in 2017. Clayborn has put together his highest-graded season of his career and currently ranks 12th among edge defenders with his 88.0 overall grade. The Buccaneers will rely on left tackle Donovan Smith to try to slow down Clayborn in this matchup. Smith has been up-and-down in pass protection for the Buccaneers and currently ranks 40th out of 80 qualified offensive tackles in pass-blocking efficiency with a rating of 94.6.