G’day Falcons fans, and welcome back to the contribution I, in collaboration with fellow Aussie Falcons fan dunlagh, hope to be making to the Falcoholic. I’ll analyse the best case scenario for the Falcons, with what are, in my opinion, a few keys to victory, while dunlagh will play devil’s advocate and look at how the game will turn out if we play at our true worst.
This week we have the privilege of playing the greatest team in the history of professional football; the team who shattered the Rams by a point and decimated the Cardinals (who were probably Super Bowl contenders in Raheem Morris’ eyes) by a Connor Barth golden boot. Seeing as we can’t possible hope to win, even at home, against such a cohesive and powerful unit, let’s look at three things we can do to stem the inevitable torrent of Buccaneers superiority on Sunday.
Ok, maybe I’m taking it a bit too far. The Bucs do have some talent; Freeman is really coming into his own, they lead the league in picks and LeGarrette Blount is really beginning to hit the holes and punch it in. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I don’t think we should take them lightly, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect a win this week and would rather the Falcons focus on the Ravens a little more. Against the Bucs, the best case scenario for us comes if we pressure Freeman, protect the ball and burn them with #33.
Pressure Freeman: Josh Freeman has come on in leaps and bounds this season. His 8/3 TD/INT ratio is extremely impressive, especially for a guy who threw 10/18 last season. He has a rocket arm and manages to avoid many mistakes. However, in the three games he threw interceptions (Browns, Steelers, Bengals) Freeman was sacked exactly 3 times in each. He fumbled twice against Cincy, and in his no-pick game against the Rams, Josh was also taken down thrice for another fumble. If you compare that with the Arizona game, in which Freeman had arguably his best game of his career (at least stats wise), there was very little pressure in his face. I watched the game, and can only think of one time Freeman was under any duress whatsoever, which he then turned into a 15+ yard rush from memory. The Bucs have let in 16 sacks this season, and are without regular starters Jeremy Trueblood (Tackle) and Jeff Faine (Centre). John Abraham is hitting form, Vance Walker broke out last week, Jonathan Babineaux takes up a double team consistently and Kroy Biermann continues to Grizzly things up. This is a week where we could see a banged up Tampa O-line allow a big sack game, which would unsettle Freeman and force turnovers. As we know, our secondary is fairly opportunistic itself, so let’s see how the game plays out if we can force Freeman into a rare mistake.
Protect the ball: Everybody is talking about Tampa’s secondary. They lead the league in interceptions (14), and the Barber/Talib combination is a fierce tandem. As an extension of the previous point, if we can get a few picks and control the clock, this one could be ours. Furthering that, if Matt Ryan can relax in the pocket and protect the football well, it could take some serious sting from a Tampa secondary which scores points at an upsetting rate. The Bucs have recorded 6 sacks this year, which ranks dead last in the league, so Ryan should have plenty of time to scan the field, set and do what he wants with it. According to DOL’s article, Roddy White thinks that the Bucs can get beaten by the deep ball. If Ryan can spread the field, make smart throws and hit the occasional knockout deep pass, then the game should be in the bag.
Burn them with #33: This one’s simple. Tampa Bay rank 30th against the run, allowing nearly 150 yards per game. In the last five games, they have allowed 4 100+ yard rushing games, three of which were over 140 yards. Plain and simple; we run the ball well, we win the possession battle, we win the game. Watch for Michael Turner to get 140+ yards and 2 TDs this week.
That’s what I see as a logical best case scenario vs Tampa Bay. Being in the Dome helps us no end and, even though Tampa have won 3 road games, we should get it done. Be sure to check out dunlagh’s Worst Case Scenario article, and please rec and discuss below. As a final note, I think we're 3-0 in our throwbacks, so we've also got that on our side. What we don't have is a throwback as amazing as the Rams. How good is this picture?
Come on Falcons, let’s show the Bucs who the best team in the NFC really is.