The Talking Plank -
Falcons At Bucs:
After a disappointing loss in Houston, the Bucs come home to face their Division rivals, the Atlanta Falcons. The Bucs still need to win a game, or have the Saints lose one, in order to clinch the Division. If they hope to do so, they really need to take care of business this week by sealing the deal against the Falcons. The Bucs weren't, as a team, very happy with last week's flat performance, and will likely come out fired up in this game. The Falcons, on the other hand, will be coming in without their head coach, and on their third QB, Chris Redman, who wasn't even in football the last 4 years. The Falcons' players may be looking to show what they are worth, but the reality is, if they get behind, they'll fold like a cheap tent. It's important that the Bucs come out flying on defense and strike early on offense. If the Bucs can get two scores up early in this game, it will make the Falcons want to curl up into the fetal position. If they are allowed to hang around for a while, then they may be able to do something, and even steal the game.
On Offense, the Bucs will be getting Garica back and will come into this contest ranked 19th overall in total yards (323.6/g), 19th in points (19.6/g), 17th in passing yards (207.6/g), and 10th in rushing yards (116/g). The Falcons' defense is 24th in yards allowed (343.5/g), 22nd in points allowed (23.5/g), 19th against the pass (219.8y/g), and 27th against the run (123.7y/g). With Garcia back at the helm, look for the Bucs to try and get up early on the Falcons, then start to grind it out with Graham. The Falcons have had problems all year against the run, allowing Graham to run for 6 yards a pop the last time these met as the Bucs put up 149 yards rushing. Garcia hit Galloway on a nice double move for a 44 yard bomb, and will probably look for the right moment to catch Hall being too aggressive again. Garcia was sacked just once in the last game, but was hurried a few times. With Penn having gotten some experience against Abraham, he should be able to hold up well again. With Coleman and Lewis both being placed on IR after the last game between these two teams, the Bucs will have a lot less to worry about from Atlanta's front four. One question mark for the Bucs is Ike Hilliard who looked like he might be out for this game, but then came in and was able to practice fully this week. Even though he may be able to go, Gruden may choose to try and get Clayton more reps, as he started last week and managed to haul in 4 passes for 39 yards and appears ready to continue what he was starting to do before he injured his ankle. The Bucs could really benefit big time if Clayton was able to really come on during the next three games and re-establish himself, and I think Gruden may be thinking the same thing while hoping he can limit Ike's role so that he can get healthy for the playoffs. To be honest, while I expect the Falcons' defense to fly around early, with the injuries up front, and the overall atmosphere in Atlanta, the Bucs should be able to really move the ball all game long and put up some impressive point totals.
On Defense, the Bucs come in ranked 3rd in yards allowed (289.2/g), 2nd in points allowed (16.5/g), 4th against the pass (185.8y/g), and 15th against the run (103.3y/g). The Falcons' offense comes in at 24th in total yards (301.1/g), 30th in points scored (14.2/g), 16th in passing yards (209.7/g), and 26th in rushing yards (91.4/g). With Chris Redman (think Brooks pick against the Ravens in 2002 for a TD) playing, even though he's been playing somewhat well, the Falcons are still not able to consistently move the ball. Dunn hasn't been able to consistently get good runs, and Norwood is still not doing enough on every down to warrant staying in, though his run average is considerably better than Dunn's. Roddy White is questionable with a knee injury, so even if he plays, he's not likely to be able to get the separation he has in the past. The Falcons will have Horn for this game, but he's been somewhat ineffective this season when he's played. If White is out, or ineffective, it will seriously hinder the Falcons' offense. The Bucs will start by trying to stop Dunn and Norwood. If they can do that, and force the Falcons to pass (which they did the last time), then the Bucs should be able to take advantage of the match-ups up front and get to Redman and force some problems. The Falcons have, after all, given up 42 sacks (league high), and gave up 4 sacks to the Bucs the last time around. I see Adams, White, and Haye having a strong game and getting 4-5 sacks between them. I also see Redman getting hurried a lot, and he has thrown a couple of picks in limited action. Look for the Bucs secondary to really clamp down on an out of his prime Horn, and a less than 100% White. Jenkins could still be a problem, and will likely still be the number 1 or 2 receiver, but the Bucs will try to limit him when they can. Crumpler will probably be forced to stay in and block a lot, but Cato June did a pretty decent job limiting the number of catches he had, though not necessarily the yardage. I suspect the Falcons will have a tough time getting yardage, much less points.
On Special Teams, the Bucs look to rebound after allowing a kick return for a TD. The Bucs had been one of the best teams in the league in keeping kick returners under control. The Bucs are still only allowing 19.1 yards per kick return and 7.2 per punt. The Bucs are getting 23.1 and 7.3 per kick and punt return themselves. The Falcons are allowing 22.4 per kick and 8.1 per punt, while getting 23.8 and 6.2 themselves. Both punters are good and the kickers are both good, though Bryant has more range. Andersen has missed 3 of 7 FG attempts beyond the 40 and inside the 50, and hasn't attempted a 50+ yet this season. Bryant has only missed one between the 40 and 50 yard range, on 6 attempts. He has missed all three 50+ yard attempts this season. The Bucs nearly got a kick return for a TD themselves when Spurlock broke off a big return to the Texans' 47 yard line. If he had cut it back inside and gotten past the kicker, he'd have been gone, but he ran toward the sideline, and got pulled down. Who knows? Maybe the Bucs can rip one off and get that monkey off their back. I think they might get a good shot at it in this game. In general, if the Bucs can win the field position battle, this won't be a game.
The Falcons only real hope in this game is staying close early and getting some turnovers. If that doesn't happen, which I don't think it will, then this game will turn into a blow out. I see the Bucs coming out pissed and ready to win the Division outright.
Bucs 35 Falcons 10.