After five years of winning seasons, playoff berths and good feelings, the Falcons have come crashing down to earth this season. The fanbase has settled back in to the resigned disgust that has defined much of the Falcons' NFL tenure.
Yet the season is not over, in practical terms. The Falcons still have seven games left to play, players to evaluate and pride to fuel them. This week, they travel to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers, who are either righting the ship or caught the Dolphins at the right time a week ago. It's one of the few games left that the Falcons have a chance of winning at their current level of play, so hey, let's look at some matchups!
Four to follow.
As Sander mentioned yesterday, it looks like the Bucs just took Harry Douglas lightly last time. They didn't feel like moving Darrelle Revis across the field to cover a guy who wasn't a #1 receiver.
HD proceeded to torch the Bucs, putting up the finest game of his entire career. He'll have a shot to do it again, more than likely, because Revis is going to be on Roddy White most of the time. It's not a matchup that favors Roddy, who is still knocking off rust and was limited against Richard Sherman just a week ago.
If Roddy can hold his own against Revis, the Falcons will do much better without Tony Gonzalez. If he can't, the Bucs can try doubling up Harry Douglas, and that's just going to be an unpleasant situation all the way around.
Steven Jackson vs. Lavonte David/Gerald McCoy
The Falcons are going to keep giving Steven Jackson carries because they are proud, stubborn men who want to see their ground game succeed but don't have the resources to actually improve it right now. So S-Jax it is.
Jackson may be able to find some room off the edges, but good luck up the middle. Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David are lurking, and both are absolutely murder against backs who don't have the speed and agility to simply run past them. As violent as Jackson runs, he's going to have a rough time breaking out.
If the Falcons can challenge the Buccaneers with the run and actually find some success, the fortunes of this offense will rapidly improve. It's going to be on S-Jax and the much-maligned offensive line to do so.
Everyone remembers that Vincent Jackson had a monster game on paper against the Falcons, but in reality, it wasn't as gaudy as the stats suggested. He pulled in fewer than half of his targets, and against Trufant he went 4 for 9 for 40 yards. Considering Jackson is a monster deep threat, that's damned impressive.
The Falcons are exceedingly likely to ask Trufant to line up against Jackson again on the majority of snaps. Trufant, of course, has shown he has the coverage skills, tackling ability and general excellence necessary to challenge some of the better receivers in the NFL. Considering Mike Glennon is now down to third-string running backs and doesn't have a ton of elite targets to spread the ball around to, he's still going to go for V-Jax.
If Trufant can keep Jackson in check, I feel very good about limiting the points the Buccaneers score. If he can pick a pass intended for Jackson, run it back for a touchdown and then fly off into the horizon with his cape flapping behind him, it'll be a great day indeed.
Paul Worrilow vs. Everyone
Worrilow is now the team's starting middle linebacker, a just reward for two straight weeks of being the dude that was in one 70% of the team's tackles. Given the Bucs' team speed and this team's tackling habits, he'll likely be asked to do something like that again.
For the Falcons, it's all about limiting gains and stopping drives. Having a sure-tackling linebacker in the Worrilow mold will go a long way toward giving the the front four a safety net. Plus, I just wanted to acknowledge that Worrilow is killing it out there.
What are your key matchups?
More from The Falcoholic:
- Tony Gonzalez Injury: Gonzo's Questionable, Malliciah Goodman's Out Sunday
- Falcons vs. Buccaneers: 5 Questions With Bucs Nation, Round Two
- Falcons vs. Buccaneers Week 11: Complete Game Coverage.
- How Will The Falcons 2013 Season Turn Out?
- Dimitroff: The Falcons Are Not Taking Their 2-7 Record Lightly