5 things to know before tonight’s Falcons at Buccaneers’ kickoff

Watch the AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter and Noah Coslov discuss the Falcons feelings about playing on Thursday night, getting Julio Jones ready and the defensive plan for Bucs QB Jameis Winston.

September 11, 2016 ATLANTA: Falcons Vic Beasley Jr., who did not have a stat on the sheet from the game, lines up to rush in the second half against the Buccaneers in an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Atlanta.   Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com

September 11, 2016 ATLANTA: Falcons Vic Beasley Jr., who did not have a stat on the sheet from the game, lines up to rush in the second half against the Buccaneers in an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com

Here are 5 things to mull over before tonight’s 8:25 p.m. kickoff between the Atlanta Falcons (5-3) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) at Raymond James Stadium.

1. Tale of the tape. Here’s how the Falcons and Buccaneers stack up statistically:

2016 Regular Season Statistics Rankings
Falcons                                                     Bucs
32.8 (1)        Points/Game                         21.7 (19)
425.3 (1)      Total Offense                         351.7 (16)
111.5 (14t)    Net Rushing Yards/Game  113.4 (12)
313.8 (2)      Net Passing Yards/Game  238.3 (20)
29:29 (23)   Possession Average              30:10 (19)
28.9 (29)     Opponent Points/Game       27.0 (25)
379.3 (25)   Opponent Total Offense       390.0 (26)
93.9 (11)      Opp. Rushing Yards/Game 115.3 (22)
285.4 (27t) Opp. Passing Yards/Game    274.7 (23)
+2 (10t)      Turnover Differential             -2 (19t)

2. Series Record. 47th regular-season meeting. The Buccaneers lead the series 24-22. The Bucs have on the last three meetings including the season opener, 31-24, at the Georgia Dome. They won the last meeting in Tampa, 23-19, on Dec. 6, 2015.

3. Key matchup. Falcons FB Patrick DiMarco and guards Andy Levitre and Chris Chester vs. Bucs LB Kwon Alexander: Alexander shut down the Falcons’ rushing attack in the opener and helped to make the offense one-dimensional. He finished the game with 17 tackles. Levitre and Chester, when they have to move beyond the defensive linemen, must get their blocks on Alexander. When DiMarco is in the game as the lead blocker, he must win at the point of attack. Falcons running backs had only 42 yards on 19 carries in the opener.

4. Mid-season grades. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has tossed a league-high 19 touchdown passes this season. Check out his grade and the rest of the team over the first eight games.

5. Stopping Jameis Winston. The Falcons are 0-3 vs. Tampa Bay second-year quarterback Jameis Winston. He is 6-14 in his other 22 starts in the NFL. Here’s how the Falcons plan to finally stop Winston.

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GAME SIX: Seahawks 26, Falcons 24

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GAME FIVE: Falcons 23, Broncos 16

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GAME FOUR: Falcons 48, Panthers 33

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GAME THREE: Falcons 45, Saints 32

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REPORT CARD: Falcons earned high marks for drubbing Saints

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GAME TWO: Falcons 35, Raiders 28

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Trufant’s heads-up play saves the day

Tight ends help to power offense

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Matthews, Schraeder held Mack sack-less

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GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24

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FILM REVIEW: Beasley missing in action

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