Kevin C. Cox
Your daily collection of Falcons and NFL news and notes from around the Web.
With Thanksgiving now in the rearview mirror, the Falcons Week 12 matchup is just two days away. Since the Texans took down the Lions on Thursday, Atlanta will need to earn a win in Tampa to maintain the best record in the NFL.
Here are today's headlines.
After missing the last three games with an ankle injury, Sean Weatherspoon says he's physically ready to return to the action. While he practiced on Wednesday, he was held out on Thursday with an undisclosed illness. Here's to hoping he wakes up on Sunday feeling great and ready to take the field.
Sunday's game will feature two of the games most durable and distinguished players in the league. On the opposing side there's Ronde Barber, who is still playing the cornerback position at a high level despite being 37 years old. He'll be tasked with covering Roddy White and perhaps Julio Jones this week. Gonzalez is a year younger than Barber at 36, and as we all know, he still plays as well
Whether or not Atlanta is able to contain Tampa's ground game may determine the outcome on Sunday. Rookie Doug Martin has been one of the best RBs in the league so far in 2012, and the Falcons haven't exactly been stellar stopping the run in their first 10 games—ranked 26th in the NFL in that category. The return of Weatherspoon should help significantly (if he plays), but Atlanta is going to require several other key players to step up as well. Stephen Nicholas needs to keep up his strong play, and Kroy Biermann—fresh off being named the LDE starter—will be expected to help out stopping the run in a big way.
The Buccaneers failed to sell enough seats to avoid a blackout on Sunday, and TV viewers within a 75 mile radius of Tampa will not be shown the game versus the Falcons. And get this: only one Bucs home game has been shown on local television this season, against New Orleans on October 21. Fans have a theory that the only reason they were able to avoid a blackout that week was due to the high number of Saints fans that bought tickets.
Despite their 9-1 record, the Falcons are just 1.5 point favorites on most betting sites. Yeah, Tampa is at home; and yeah, there are a few key matchups that favor the Bucs, but I expected the books to have a little more faith in Atlanta. But I guess if gambling's your thing and you have a lot of confidence in the Birds, this would be a good opportunity to lay down some money.