With divisional round tickets officially on sale, the city of Atlanta has begun preparations for playoff football for the second time in three years. But before we jump ahead to the postseason, there remains one more game to play against rival Tampa Bay.
If Atlanta scores 41 or more points on Sunday, this team will leapfrog the '98 squad as the highest scoring team in Falcon history. While it would be nice to see another milestone reached, it's hard to imagine Mike Smith and Co. would view it as much of an accomplishment; not with the playoffs on the horizon. Additionally, the fact that the majority of the starters will likely rest for part of the game will make this feat very unlikely.
Gonzalez Defying Age Once Again
At the age of 36, tight end Tony Gonzalez continues to play elite football, and he's been awarded yet another Pro Bowl nod—the 13th in his career. While the trip to Hawaii is nothing new to the future Hall of Famer, this particular nomination may be the most satisfactory.
"Because the older you get the more people start to doubt you," Gonzalez explained. "Just because of human nature. ‘You are getting old, there is no way you can move around like you used to.’ I’ve been hearing that. ‘Oh, he’s lost a step, he’s not as fast as he used to be.’
"It’s nice to go out there and play well and tell them, ‘What do you got to say now?’ That’s part of the fun is proving people wrong."
Ryan Named NFC Player of the Week
The biggest reason why the Falcons have earned the top seed in the NFC and a bye through the first round of the postseason is the play of quarterback Matt Ryan. And after a strong showing last Saturday in Detroit, the Pro Bowler has been named the NFC Player of the Week.
Ryan completed 25 of 32 passes versus the Lions for 270 yards and four touchdowns. This was one of the best games as a pro, and it seems the five-year veteran just keeps getting better and better. If this success can carry over to the playoffs, we'll be able to put Ryan in that elite class of QBs—right where we thought he'd end up back in April of 2008.
White Misses Practice Again
As if being snubbed from the Pro Bowl wasn't bad enough for Roddy White, the veteran receiver has been held out of practice for two straight days with an injured knee. White, who's never missed a game in his NFL career, will likely suit up against the Bucs, but don't expect him to play the entire game.
Tampa Offense Struggling
After getting shut out by the Saints two weeks ago, the Buccaneers fell flat against the Rams last Sunday, losing to St. Louis by the score of 28-13. Greg Schiano's team has now lost five in a row, and their offense, which had so much potential at the beginning of the season, has been incredibly disappointing.
"Point blank, we just have to run the offense," QB Josh Freeman said. "That's what we've been doing, and I hate to say, 'Slow it down.' But that's kind of what we need to do. If you look back to when we had that stretch where we were an extremely explosive offense, the stuff that we were doing wasn't anything out of the ordinary. We were doing our stuff. Obviously guys were making plays, but we were letting the system create the plays and you've got to keep that in perspective."