The Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers play on Thursday night and the injury situation for each team makes the game look much different than the first.
Both teams have multiple starters out and need to account for the losses of dtional impact players. On top of that, the Falcons might have the injury edge this week and could potentially use their defense to stuff the Buccaneers offense due to the injury situations there.
When looking at the Buccaneers injury report, the biggest thing that stands out is that they are missing all three of their top running backs. Because of that, instead of starting Doug Martin, Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers, the Buccaneers will be starting Peyton Barber or Antone Smith against the Falcons. Neither one of them are talented enough to start in the NFL.
Another issue for the Buccaneers is that they are missing their second-, third-, and fourth-best wide receivers and will only have four active wide receivers on Thursday with just three of them having an actual role defined by the offense. This makes the likelihood of three-wide receiver sets lower than normal and could be a key aspect in the game.
The fact that Clinton McDonald is out and Jacquies Smith is on injured reserve makes the pass rush much easier to deal with as well. The Falcons will be playing a beat up group that will likely feature Noah Spence, Gerald McCoy and Robert Ayers as the key pass rushers. They are all still good, but the Falcons could grind on them throughout the game with their run game.
The Falcons are much healthier than the Buccaneers, but still have some key injuries of their own. With a pair of nickel starters out this week in Dwight Freeney and Derrick Shelby, the Falcons will have to adjust their pass rushing and base sets along the defensive line. In the base set, Brooks Reed, Ra’Shede Hageman, Grady Jarrett, and Tyson Jackson should see time there again.
It’s the nickel set that will be adjusted. Adrian Clayborn and Vic Beasley have already earned their roles, but guys like Jarrett and Courtney Upshaw will compete on the interior rotation and guys like Reed and Cliff Matthews will compete for the time on the edge. This will be a downgrade from what Shelby and Freeney provided this year and could hinder the Falcons defense.
Losing Tevin Coleman for the game will be tough, but Taylor Gabriel and even Terron Ward can make up for some of the explosion lost with him out. Coleman is a beast with his speed, but the Falcons should be able to handle his loss again this week. The question about whether Julio Jones is 100 percent is of bigger consequence, but Jones should be a decoy at minimum.
Brian Poole, Andy Levitre and Grady Jarrett were banged up during the week but should be fine for the game. And the loss of Jacob Tamme should be easy to adjust to with rookie Austin Hooper finally coming into his own. Atlanta has quite a few injuries of their own, but should be able to handle them effectively with their depth.
The Buccaneers are a solid team, but the Falcons should have an edge due to the sheer amount of injuries that they have suffered why the Falcons are relatively healthy. Atlanta could turn this one into a barn-burner early if they take advantage of the injuries that the Buccaneers have suffered.