Despite off-field drama, Bucs look to continue division title march in Atlanta


Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Ndamukong Suh during an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021 in Indianapolis. (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)

ATLANTA (WFLA) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers found plenty of unwanted drama and attention during the week. They hope to avoid negative attention later today by avoiding a lackluster showing against an upset-minded Atlanta Falcons team, finding its way through a first season head coach.

The Bucs are without wide receiver Antonio Brown as well as safety Mike Edwards. Both players are serving a three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s covid policy.

Head coach Bruce Arians expressed his anger in both players on Friday but refused to discuss the matter further saying that the team will decide its next move in three weeks.

Brown would be unable to play against the Falcons despite the suspension. He continues to deal with a foot ailment that began with his ankle and now includes his heel. Brown’s progress will likely improve over the suspension, forcing the Bucs to make a decision about his place on the team.

One player that is likely to hit the field this afternoon is cornerback Carlton Davis II, activated to the active roster from the injured reserve list on Friday. Davis has not played since injuring a quad muscle during the week four game against New England.

Davis will finally line up across from teammate Sean Murphy-Bunting, who returned from a dislocated elbow injury (week one) last week in Indianapolis.

“It will be fun. I’ve missed those guys so much – just playing with them and being around them,” Davis said. “Having your brothers’ back – there is nothing like it. The chemistry between us is crazy and to be back out on the field with them will be fulfilling for me because I miss it so much.”

Their presence will be welcome as the Bucs secondary gets its second shot at rookie tight Kyle Pitts, who is showing well in the Atlanta offense with 661 receiving yards, averaging 14.7 yards per catch.

Pitts had a 24 yard reception against the Bucs earlier this season and was difficult to defend, finishing the game with 73 receiving yards.

“He is a wide receiver, he is a tight end, he is fast, he is versatile, he has a lot of speed, and he has a lot of flexibility as far as his moves – getting on the line, he can be a wideout or a tight end,” said defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. “That creates match-up problems in how they use him. We knew he was going to be a great player when we played him the first time and now he is coming into his own. He is one of the most exciting players to watch right now”

Today’s game is just the third NFC South game for the Bucs this season as they will finish up with four division games in their final six and stand three wins away from clinching the division title.

The Bucs defeated Atlanta 48-25 in week two but will focus on road game discipline for the second straight week, looking to improve to 4-3 on the road.

Last week against the Indianapolis Colts, the Bucs were flagged a season-low four times, keeping drives on schedule and the offense on the field in the second half. Running back Leonard Fournette sealed the game with his fourth touchdown of the game in a 38-31 Bucs victory.

The lone division game on the road so far was a penalty-filled, turnover-plagued 36-27 loss at the New Orleans Saints.

“I think just winning against a division opponent is tough. When you play division opponents on the road, it’s a challenging game,” said quarterback Tom Brady. “We’ve got four division games coming up. We didn’t do so [well] the last division game on the road, so we’ve got to take care of business.”

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