One does not just walk over the Buccaneers.
Yes, at 7-4 they're an extreme longshot to wrest the division away from the Falcons. No, Raheem Morris hasn't discovered a way to turn his front seven into a bloodthirsty crew of run-stoppers. If anything, this Bucs team has gotten weaker since the last time the Falcons met them, thanks to injuries to starters.
The Falcons get the Buccaneers at home, and we all know that the Falcons are not the otherworldly squadron of win on the road that they are in the cozy confines of the Georgia Dome. There's also the little matter that the Bucs are going to be playing for their post-season lives, and no team doing that can or should be taken lightly. Don't be surprised if this game is closer than any of us would've liked, and I've honestly got this penciled in as a loss. Don't flame me!
Interested in four key points from this one? Happy to oblige.
Michael Turner vs. Bucs Defense
If I was really lazy, I could just copy and paste from a few weeks back, when this was the top matchup in the last Falcons-Bucs game. Because I'm only somewhat lazy, I won't.
A brilliant effort from Turner and the Falcons win. Period. Wearing out the defense, grinding down the clock and scoring is a sure way to push past Tampa Bay.
Falcons Secondary vs. Mike Williams
The Falcons got destroyed but Williams last time around, and I'd rather not see a repeat of it.
Obviously pressure on Josh Freeman is a factor here, but Williams is a freak. Defending against him may take some double coverage or at least a heads-up performance by either Dunta Robinson or Brent Grimes, but the Falcons can make it happen. I'd honestly prefer to put Grimes on him.
Falcons Passing Game vs. Bucs Secondary
Let's make this one easy. Assuming Turner's got a good head of steam Thursday—and he is a steam-powered automaton—the Falcons should plan to hardly challenge the secondary.
Think about it: The Bucs have one of the league's more opportunistic sets of cornerbacks and safeties, even with Cody Grimm out, and the Falcons thrive when they minimize turnovers. Have Matt Ryan hit Tony Gonzalez and his receivers on short curls, in the flats and on slants over the middle to minimize the involvement of the secondary. It'd be a good opportunity to get Ovie Mughelli going out of the backfield.
Mike Smith vs. Raheem Morris
It's a real battle of wits with these two. Raheem's a good coach, but Smith is quickly becoming a great one. It should be fun to watch the telepathic struggle on the two sidelines Sunday.