Q&A: Lovie Smith believes Winston is a star

FLOWERY BRANCH – Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith spoke to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's JuliaKate Culpepper on a conference call on Wednesday.

The Bucs, who defeated the Falcons 23-20 in overtime on Nov. 1, host the Falcons (6-5) at 1 p.m. Sunday in a game with NFC playoff ramifications.

Here’s what Smith had to say:

Q: What do you see from Matt Ryan this season?

A: He's one of the best quarterbacks in the league is what I see. He's a quarterback who can make every throw that you would want a franchise quarterback to make. He's a smart player. He's had a lot of success in the league. You don't always…from time to time, you might have a bad game here or there, but Matt Ryan's one of the best in the league. We know that we have our work cut out for us. We have to play well to try to keep him contained as much as possible."

Q: How are you all preparing for Devin Hester’s potential return?

A: I drafted him into the NFL. I've been on the sideline to watch him set about every record that you can set as a returner. The Atlanta Falcons are a lot better with Devin Hester on the football field. … we'll have our work cut out playing him. We'll try to keep the ball out of his hands as much as possible. When he has it in his hands, we need to contain him.

Q: How will you all prepare for Falcons receiver Julio Jones?

A: He's arguably the best receiver in the game. He's one of the best. We feel like, of course, that we have good receivers, too and we do have good receivers. There will be some good receivers on the field. Julio, we know what he can do with the ball. He'll block. He's a tough guy. It's a tough matchup. The reason way they try to get him the ball as much as possible is because he's a tough dude.

Q: How is Jameis Winston’s development coming along?

A: He's one of the up and coming stars in the league. You can see improvement from week to week with him. So, we are expecting big things from him. In order for you to play well as a team you have to get production from the quarterback position and we've gotten that from Jameis.

Q: Are you all preparing for running back Devonta Freeman?

A: He's one of the best backs in the league whether if it be running inside the tackles or making people miss in the open field or he can run over you. Of course, you are a lot better when you can get the running game going. The Falcons' running game will definitely be better with Devonta on the field.