Bucs vs. Falcons: What's changed since the last meeting

The Falcons are hoping for a different outcome this time around when they take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

The Bucs (7-8) have vastly improved under Bruce Arians as the season has gone on. Arians' defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles, has the Buccaneers playing the best their defense has played in years.


Tampa is coming off a tough home loss to the Houston Texans in Week 16. Jameis Winston had a chance to lead his team to a game-winning drive but was picked off with 1:27 to go as the Bucs trailed by three.

Winston threw four picks in the 23-20 loss to the Texans (10-5) and his interceptions continue to be the biggest Achilles heel for the Bucs. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for Tampa, which was coming off the 35-22 win over the Falcons in Week 12.

The Falcons (6-9) are on a three-game winning streak themselves. After strong performances against the Panthers, 49ers and Jaguars, Atlanta will be looking to close out the lost season on a positive note.

Here's a look at what's changed with the Bucs since the last meeting:

Bucs' offense missing star receivers

After losing Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans for the season with a hamstring injury, the injury bug kept hitting the Bucs.

Chris Godwin, who also earned his first Pro Bowl nod, also suffered a hamstring injury and missed Tampa's most recent game against the Texans.

Arians has been on record saying he "hopes" Godwin makes it back for the regular-season finale, but his status is certainly something to keep an eye as the week goes on.

Godwin and Evans have combined for 153 catches for 2,490 yards and 17 touchdowns this year for Tampa.

Without these two in the lineup against Houston, Winston relied heavily on former first-round pick Breshad Perriman who caught seven passes for 102 yards.

Tampa's defense headed in right direction

When Arians was hired to take over as head coach for Bucs, the acquisition of Bowles to take control of the defense was a big one.

Bowles, former head coach of the New York Jets from 2015-18, is known for his pressure packages. The Bucs have recorded 41 sacks on the year with Shaquil Barrett leading the way. Barrett ranks second in the NFL in sacks with 16.5.

The Bucs rank No. 15 in total defense and have been outstanding against the run. Tampa has the No. 1 ranked rush defense allowing just 72.9 yards per game.

Winston is Bucs most dangerous player

The conundrum of Winston and his future with Tampa is the biggest storyline surrounding the Bucs this season.

Winston and the Bucs one of the league's top offenses in the league. Tampa ranks No. 3 in the league in yards per game (6,037) and points per game (29.1).

His biggest problem throughout his career hasn't been his ability to make the big plays. It's his inability to take care of the ball and not cause turnovers for his team.

Winston leads the league in interceptions with 28 and has thrown 31 touchdowns this season.

A meaningful game for both teams

Arians wanted to end the season with a winning record in his first year and Tampa's most recent loss means they won't be able to achieve that.

With that being said, Arians wants to finish with a .500 record and in order to get to 8-8, they need a win at home to close out the year.

The Falcons are in a similar position. Dan Quinn and the players in the Falcons' locker room have talked about how disappointing the first half of the season was. Since the bye, the Falcons are 5-2 and hoping to finish the year with another win, especially over a team that beat them on their home turf earlier in the year.

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