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National Football League
Preview
Atlanta at Tampa Bay
When: 1:00 PM ET, Sunday, December 30, 2018
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida

The Atlanta Falcons will try to end an otherwise disappointing season with a third straight win when they visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. A popular Super Bowl pick heading into the season after back-to-back playoff appearances, the Falcons were done in by a dismal five-game losing streak in the second half of the season as their usually potent offense began to fizzle.

"It's a fighting team: We didn't run away from nothing," star wideout Julio Jones told reporters. "We don't shy away from nothing. We had some mishaps this year; control what you can control. At the end of the day, we stuck together. You can't let outside noise affect us inside." Quarterback Matt Ryan has still had a stellar season throwing the ball and ranks third in the NFL with 4,546 passing yards, 398 shy of his career high. He threw for 355 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in a 34-29 win over Tampa Bay at home earlier in the season. That was part of a 1-7 stretch for Tampa Bay, which will be finishing up its second straight losing season under embattled third-year coach Dirk Koetter.

TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Falcons -1. O/U: 51

ABOUT THE FALCONS (6-9): Injuries have played a part in Atlanta's downfall this year, but they also opened up opportunities for others to step up, as evidenced by a 115-yard effort by little-used running back Brian Hill in last week's 24-10 victory at Carolina. "It was exciting," Hill told reporters of his breakout performance. "I was excited all week knowing I was going to get a chance to run the ball. I started out a little shaky out there, but I'm happy I could turn it around." Jones needs 11 catches to reach 700 for his career but has been hampered by hip and ribs injuries this week and is questionable for the finale.


ABOUT THE BUCCANEERS (5-10): There has been increased scrutiny on Koetter as the losses have piled up, but quarterback Jameis Winston came to his coach's defense heading into the finale. "I've learned a lot from Coach Koetter," Winston, who threw for 336 yards and a TD in last week's 27-20 loss at Dallas, told reporters Thursday. "He's an incredible coach and he's an incredible man. He's helped develop me to do some incredible things as a quarterback. But at the end of the day, we've gotta focus on Atlanta." There have been reports that Koetter has clashed with wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who reportedly wants to sign elsewhere this offseason.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Buccaneers WR Mike Evans has 1,418 receiving yards and needs just five more to pass Mark Carrier's franchise mark established in 1989.

2. Hill should get plenty of work once again with leading rusher Tevin Coleman still hampered by a groin injury.

3. Atlanta has won four straight meetings while averaging 33.8 points.

PREDICTION: Falcons 31, Buccaneers 26
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W‑L Strk PF PA Home Away Grass Turf OT Div Conf
Atlanta 6-9 W2 25.3 26.1 4-4 2-5 6-8 0-0 - - 6-5
Tampa Bay 5-10 L3 24.3 28.7 4-3 1-7 4-6 0-0 - - 4-7
Last Meeting
Atlanta Tampa Bay
Date Away Home Tot Rus Pas Tot Rus Pas
10/14/18 TB 29 ATL 34 417 70 347 510 121 389
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Atlanta M. Ryan 75.6 355 3 0
Tampa Bay J. Winston 73.2 395 4 2
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Atlanta T. Coleman 10 35 3.5 0
Tampa Bay P. Barber 13 82 6.3 0
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Atlanta J. Jones 10 144 14.4 0
Tampa Bay A. Humphries 3 82 27.3 0
Touchdowns Player TD
Atlanta T. Coleman 1
Tampa Bay P. Barber 1
Season
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Atlanta M. Ryan 69.3 4546 33 6
Tampa Bay J. Winston 64.7 2647 15 13
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Atlanta T. Coleman 159 755 4.7 3
Tampa Bay P. Barber 219 805 3.7 5
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Atlanta J. Jones 104 1539 14.8 7
Tampa Bay M. Evans 80 1418 17.7 6
Touchdowns Player TD
Atlanta C. Ridley 9
Tampa Bay M. Evans 7