Bucs at Falcons: 5 key matchups to watch
Each week, Pewter Report takes a look at the matchups for you to watch in the near future Bucs game. Here are the top five matchups to watch in the Bucs’ defense as they take on rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder and the Falcons offense in Week 18.
DT Akiem Hicks v RG Chris Lindstrom
With Ali Marpet retired, Lindstrom has become the NFC’s Marpet. The division’s dominant guard rarely loses a rep and has only surrendered two sacks all season and allowed only nine pressures. Lindstrom has only been flagged twice this year and has an overall grade of 95 from Pro Football Focus. At six feet tall, 307 pounds, Lindstrom, a freshman Pro Bowler, wins with grit, power and technique and will be hard for Hicks to beat.
Hicks struggled with a foot injury for most of the season that forced him to miss six games. It has robbed him of some of his speed since his return, evidenced by the lack of sacks this season. Like Will Gholston, Hicks has yet to pick up a sack. But at six feet and 335 pounds, Hicks has been a reliable run stuffer this year, especially in partnership with Vita Vea. He will have to hold his own against Lindstrom in the ground game after missing out on the Bucs’ 21-15 victory over the Falcons in Week 5.
LB Devin White v Tyler Allgeier
Allgeier has had a really good rookie season in Atlanta, rushing for 800 yards and earning an impressive 87 overall mark from Pro Football Focus. The 5-foot-11, 220-pounder is a real tackle-breaker and has averaged 99 yards rushing per game over the past three weeks. He’s shown improvement as a receiver this season, but where Allgeier does his damage is on the ground, evidenced by his 4.8 yards-per-carry average.
White has really played better in the second half of the Bucs season. He has made fewer blunders and has been blocking better and not missing any tackles. At six feet tall and 237 pounds, White has the strength to stop Allgeier. He’ll have to tackle lower and pack against the rookie powerback, in addition to beating him in pass protection on blitzes.
CB Jamel Dean v WR Drake London
The Falcons move London so he will see action against Antoine Winfield Jr., Sean Murphy-Bunting and Dean. Atlanta’s first round pick leads the team with 66 catches for 746 yards (11.4 avg) and four touchdowns. He has been attacked 109 times this year, which is twice as many as any other Falcons receiver. Rookie Desmond Ridder will often look in the direction of London on Sunday.
Dean held London to just one catch for a yard in the first matchup in Week 5. He’s suffering from a sore toe, so he may not be as effective on Sunday as he was in the previous matchup. Due to his injury, Dean may not play the entire game and could make room for rookie Zyon McCollum. Then it might be a further fight for London. But if Dean plays, he should be able to handle the six-foot-tall, 213-pound rookie.
OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka v QB Desmond Ridder
Knight is making his fourth start at quarterback for Atlanta. The Falcons’ third-round pick earned its first win as an NFL starter in last week’s 20-19 victory over the Cardinals. He has completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 484 yards this season, but has yet to throw a touchdown or an interception. He has been sacked a total of seven times, but only once against Arizona last week. The Falcons let Ridder clear the ball quickly, evidenced by his longest pass of just 26 yards.
Tryon-Shoyinka is coming off a great game against Carolina and almost had a few sacks. He has only had four sacks this season and is on the verge of another big game. One of those sacks came against Falcons in Week 5 against Marcus Mariota. Knight is mobile, but not as mobile as Mariota and he should be able to get the rookie to the ground.
OLB Anthony Nelson v LT Jake Matthews
A mainstay in the Falcons offensive line for nine seasons, Matthews continues to play at a high level. He’s only been to one Pro Bowl (2018), but that’s partly due to Atlanta’s lack of success in recent years. Matthews has four sacks and 17 pressures this season and will have his hands full against Nelson, who is on a hot streak.
Nelson is tied for second on the team with 5.5 sacks, marking a new career high. He leads the team with three forced fumbles, and has stripped back-to-back in the last two games. Nelson has 2.5 sacks in the last three games and wins with length and tenacity. He will give Matthews all he can handle on Sunday as he runs from Knight’s blind side.
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