The Falcons host the Bucs on Sunday in what very well could determine the NFC South. With a win, Atlanta will have a stranglehold over the division, holding a virtual two game lead that could potentially be a three game lead if the Saints can’t beat the lowly Panthers. But with a loss on Sunday, the Falcons will find themselves in second place.
It’s a home game versus a division rival with a ton on the line. That hasn’t been the case in December for the Falcons in quite some time, but unfortunately, they could be without a plethora of starters on Sunday.
Drew Dalman was upgraded to a limited participant in practice, as he nurses an ankle injury. Hopefully, he’ll be good to go, as he’s turned into one of the better centers in the league in his third year. However, Jeff Okudah, Nate Landman, Kaleb McGary, and David Onyemata all did not practice, while star corner A.J. Terrell remains in concussion protocol.
Center Drew Dalman (ankle) moved up to a limited participant in Atlanta’s Thursday’s practice, but CB Jeff Okudah (ankle), LB Nate Landman (knee), RT Kaleb McGary and DT David Onyemata (ankle) did not practice. CB A.J. Terrell remains in concussion protocol.
— Josh Kendall (@JoshTheAthletic) December 7, 2023
In one of the most important contests to date, the Falcons could be relying on a slew of backups, some situations not as dire as others.
In place of Okudah and Terrell, rookie Clark Phillips and veteran Tre Flowers got some burn. The former actually looked really good against the Jets, but the Bucs’ bigger receivers and more capable passing attack should pose a different threat.
Flowers started the season while Okudah worked his way back from injury and had forgettable moments. The big bodied corner is a much better option than Mike Hughes against Tampa.
Andre Smith entered the game in place of Landman and held his own, even recovering a forced fumble. A linebacker isn’t as premium as a cornerback, but not having Landman would still be a serious blow.
One could argue that there was little to no drop-off with Storm Norton in place of McGary last week. Was that due to the sample size or is Norton actually capable of starting in a pinch? We might see this Sunday.
Onyemata’s absence would be a devastating loss for a unit that has already lost Grady Jarrett. The Falcons could be welcoming back LaCale London as the club opened his 21-day practice window, but either way, Atlanta is a much better defense with Onyemata.
The Falcons seem confident some of these guys will suit up; however, it’s trending to at least one or two missing the club’s divisional matchup.
Photo: Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire