KICKOFF: Thursday, 8:25 p.m., ET, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla. TV: NFL Network, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Heather Cox.
SERIES HISTORY: 47th regular-season meeting. Buccaneers lead series, 24-22. The Bucs won each of the past three meetings, including the season opener 31-24 at the Georgia Dome. They won the last meeting in Tampa 23-19 on Dec. 6, 2015.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Last weekend, the Bucs' defense could not get pressure on Oakland QB Derek Carr, who passed for a club-record 513 yards and four touchdowns as the visiting Raiders won in overtime.
Now Falcons QB Matt Ryan is the guest after recording his 34th come-from-back victory last week when he tossed a game-winning touchdown pass with 31 seconds left against the Green Bay Packers. He is having his best season statistically, completing 193 of 279 passes for 2,636 yards with 19 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has a passer rating of 115.8, which is second in the NFL behind Tom Brady's 133.9 mark.
Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston owns three wins over the Falcons. Atlanta wants to get a better pass rush against him. With three sacks against the Packers, the Falcons have 18 sacks through eight games, tied for 11th in the league. They are one sack off their total of 19 from last season, which was last in the league.
Falcons DE Vic Beasley came up with a sack of Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers. He is third in the league with 7.5 sacks. Falcons DT Adrian Clayborn had two sacks, which upped his total to 3.5 on the season. Winston has been sacked 16 times.
In the first meeting, a 31-24 Bucs win at Atlanta on Sept. 11, the Falcons didn't register a sack, but they had six quarterback hits. Winston passed for 281 yards and four touchdowns.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Bucs LB Kwon Alexander vs. Falcons FB Patrick DiMarco and guards Andy Levitre and Chris Chester. Alexander had 17 tackles in the last meeting and effectively shut down the Falcons' rushing attack. That helped make the offense one-dimensional. When Levitre and Chester climb to the second level, they must get their blocks on Alexander. While DiMarco is in the game as the lead blocker, he must win at the point of attack.
--Bucs WR Mike Evans vs. Falcons CB Desmond Trufant. Evans has 44 catches for 595 yards and six touchdowns. The Bucs will force the ball deep to Evans, who wins more than his share of jump balls. Trufant is having another solid season and has four pass breakups.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Bucs RB Antone Smith. Added to the roster only a few weeks ago, Smith may be the primary ball carrier against the Falcons. The seventh-year pro from Florida State has never carried more than 23 times in an NFL season. Jacquizz Rodgers averaged 25 carries a game since taking over as the primary running back, but he may be sidelined due to an ankle injury, so the Bucs are down to their seventh running back this season.
FAST FACTS: Falcons WR Julio Jones is averaging 110.6 yards per game receiving and has seven TDs in nine career meetings with the Bucs. ... Atlanta LB Vic Beasley has three forced fumbles on the season. ... Bucs WR Russell Shephard is looking to be on the end of a receiving TD for a third consecutive game. ... Tampa Bay DT Gerald McCoy has a sack in two of past three games, and he had career high three against the Falcons Nov. 17, 2013. ... Bucs LB Kwon Alexander is aiming to register at least 10 tackles for a fourth consecutive meeting with the Falcons. He has two sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception in three games vs. Atlanta. ... Since 2013, Tampa Bay LB Lavonte David is the only NFL player with 450-plus tackles (477), 10-plus sacks (12) and five-plus interceptions (eight).
PREDICTION: The Bucs managed to take the visiting Raiders into overtime with the help of 23 Oakland penalties, though they appeared disjointed on offense against a team with a so-so defense. Falcons QB Matt Ryan leads the NFL with 2,636 passing yards, and he should pad that stat Thursday night.
OUR PICK: Falcons, 32-21.