Falcons coach Dan Quinn looking to end winless streak vs. Buccaneers

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Dan Quinn has been the Atlanta Falcons head coach for just 24 games, but already has three losses to NFC South foe Tampa Bay.

He hopes the streak of futility comes to an end Thursday night.

It won't be easy for the Falcons, with a quick turnaround coming off an emotional, 33-32 overtime triumph against Green Bay.

"It's a heck of challenge," Quinn said of the short week.

The Falcons are 5-3 and atop the division heading into this matchup with Jameis Winston and the 3-4 Buccaneers. The Bucs already won the season opener between the teams, 31-24, back in September. Another win would mean consecutive season sweeps for Tampa Bay.

Here's a closer look at Winston and five of his teammates to watch, courtesy of NFL Nation Buccaneers reporter Jenna Laine:


QB Winston: Winston said after Sunday’s game and reiterated it Tuesday: he needs to be more precise with where he puts the football. He completed 16 of 32 passes for 180 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions last week, but nearly half of that production came in the first quarter. The Bucs couldn’t get anything going in overtime, going three-and-out on both offensive possessions, leaving the defense on the field for a whopping 44 minutes. One area he has worked very hard to improve has been cutting down on interceptions, but in doing so, he’s less likely to take chances downfield the way he did earlier in the season.

RB Antone Smith: When Jacquizz Rodgers left the game late in the fourth quarter, Smith, his former Falcons teammate, stepped in to fill the void. Smith had previously been used as a change-of-pace, pass-catching back when Rodgers was starting, and looks to see more snaps this week in the Bucs’ run-first offense, although head coach Dirk Koetter hasn’t commented on his workload. On Tuesday, he was spending extra time in practice working on catching short passes with Winston. In limited action last week, he rushed for 16 yards on four carries and caught one of two targets for 9 yards.

WR Mike Evans: Evans remains Winston’s go-to target and he’s been lining up all over the field, not just on the outside, trying to create more opportunities. With Vincent Jackson on IR and Russell Shepard being injured this week, it’s even more imperative to get Evans involved. He caught only four passes on 11 targets this past week and was held to 50 receiving yards, a season low, but did manage to catch a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter. The Raiders consistently had Evans in double coverage.


DE Noah Spence: Despite suffering a dislocated shoulder and partially-torn labrum in Week 4, Spence never missed a game. The second-round draft pick recorded his third career sack last week, forcing a fumble that set up Russell Shepard’s 19-yard touchdown in the first quarter. He’s not an every-down defensive lineman, although his reps went up in the absence of Robert Ayers, but they’ve gotten solid production out of him as a pass rusher, and that will only improve as he continues to refine his moves and technique. He’s also rushing from both sides for the first time in his career, having always lined up on the right side in college.

MLB Kwon Alexander: Alexander always seems to have his best games against the Falcons – he had 17 tackles in Week 1 -- and he could use a rebound after several missed tackles against the Raiders. Alexander has great quickness, he’s physical and he’s an asset in the run game, but sometimes his aggression can get the best of him and he over-pursues. If the Bucs want to stop Devonta Freeman, they need a big game from Alexander.

CB Jude Adjei-Barimah: The Bucs have made a change at the cornerback position since Week 1, with Adjei-Barimah now manning the nickelback position and Vernon Hargreaves strictly on the outside. Adjei-Barimah had a terrific game against the 49ers, finishing with a sack, forced fumble and six tackles. Against the Raiders, however, he struggled, with a dooming holding call on fourth down that led to the game-tying touchdown. He also missed a tackle on the final play of the game, a 41-yard catch-and-run from Seth Roberts, when he and Bradley McDougald collided trying to bring Roberts down.