The Falcons sure like to make their games interesting.
No matter the opponent, the Falcons seem to be content to act like they're putting a team away before falling apart completely, letting them back in and then squeaking out a victory. It's both an infuriating and exhilarating habit, one that is eventually going to give all of us chronic health issues. But hey, totally worth it!
The Buccaneers offer up an intriguing matchup for a number of reasons. They're a divisional rival, they're somehow 5-2, they've got a rising star at quarterback and a killer secondary, and they're a team that seems to find ways to win despite tough odds. They'd remind me of the Falcons if I didn't loathe them so, and if they had any semblance of a pass rush.
Nonetheless, they'll play the Falcons tough. They have an annoying habit of doing so. But the Falcons will ultimately prevail, in my humble opinion, and I'm prepared to point out why. If you'd be so kind, join me after the jump.
Michael Turner vs. Bucs Defense
You had to know this would be the top matchup.
The Falcons can bludgeon the Bucs' middling rush defense to death with Turner, as long as he's looking good and they don't stray from the reasonable plan of giving the rock to our colossus. A successful ground attack will set up the pass, keep the Bucs' defense on the field and virtually hand the Falcons a victory, assuming they're not careless with the football and the defense holds up.
Josh Freeman vs. Falcons Secondary
The Falcons would like Josh Freeman to throw a pick or two or three, but he doesn't make many mistakes. An unusually error-filled game would give the Falcons an excellent chance to win. Thankfully, Brent Grimes and William Moore know a thing or two about picking passes.
Falcons Passing Game vs. Bucs Secondary
If Turner has his way with the defense, it'll make things a lot easier on Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, among others.
That doesn't mean this is easy going. As I mentioned earlier in my One Falcon To Watch post, Ryan's going to be matched up against a defense that leads the NFL in interceptions. While their pass rush is about as threatening as a pillowcase filled with adorable puppies, that's nothing to sneeze at. If White can continue to operate at a superhuman level, this one should be more than manageable. If not, hopefully Gonzalez and Michael Jenkins can pick up the slack against Aqib Talib, Ronde Barber and the rest.
Mike Smith vs. Raheem Morris
I mean, c'mon. The Bucs are the best team in the NFL. Going to be tough for Mike Smith to win out on this one.