Do you trust the Bucs to close out winning?

by Gary Shelton on December 28, 2019

in general

Winston has to avoid early turnovers./JEFFREY S. KING

Saturday, 4 a.m.

It is your last chance to believe. Your last chance to trust.

Is there something really different about these Tampa Bay Bucs or not?

The Bucs close out their 2019 season today -- their 12th straight in which they have failed to make the playoffs -- and once more, they will test your faith.

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Take quarterback Jameis Winston. He's had 300-yard passing days in nine of his last 10 games. But he has also thrown too many balls to the wrong team -- opening drives are a particularly hazardous undertaking.

Take the secondary. They've played six straight games without giving up 300 yards passing. But that was after giving up six such days in their first nine games. With Julio Jones healthy, can the Bucs survive?

Take Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan had his second-worst ever day against the Bucs in the first meeting, his lowest-rated game of the season. But he's played better in a three-game winning streak.

Take the run defense. The Bucs have played five straight games without giving up 100 yards defensively. But the Falcons have run the ball well in two of their last three games.

So what happens? The guess here is that it depends on the start. If the Bucs can grab a solid lead, the Falcons might let their minds wander. But if Jones finds his way to a deep ball early, it could be a dogfight.

It isn't posturing to say the Bucs have played better lately. But they still don't have all of their receivers. That's going to hurt.

The Prediction: Tampa Bay 28, Atlanta 27.

Other NFL games:

New England 31, Miami 14

New Orleans 35, Carolina 20

Seattle 30, San Francisco 27

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