Because it's become relatively clear that my long, rambling previews don't attract a lot of comments or readers who can make it through alive, I've decided to change the previews to bullet points with the most important matchups and moments of the game. Please give me feedback if you like it or hate it. Without further ado:
Chris Houston should be a key to this game, as the AJC's D. Orlando Ledbetter writes. The promising rookie corner stepped up in a big way last week when Pet Rhino finally woke up from his coma and said "oh shit, I've been playing Lewis Sanders!" The Bucs will be pushing a variety of older or ineffective options against Houston, so I like his chances of stringing together two dominant performances in a row.
If the Bucs get crafy and line up Joey Galloway against him, that might be a cause for concern. Galloway still has good speed and instincts and has been around the league longer than Chris Houston has been out of diapers. I don't expect to see that happen often this game, though, so let's hope Houston can cement his starting spot with a big interception.
On the offensive side of things, the Falcons will have their work cut out for them against Derrick Brooks and Barrett Ruud. I'm glad Snelling is up and Norwood is (hopefully) ready for this week, because I doubt Dunn is going to see the same success he has the last two games against that linebacking corps. For the 25th time, I'm begging Pet Rhino to mix up the running game and split carries between the powerful Snelling, the elusive Norwood and the steady Dunn. Another 30 carry game for Dunn is not acceptable unless he's averaging 5 yards a carry.
Speaking of running backs, the Falcons would be wise to not take Earnest Graham lightly. He's inconsistent at best, but has posted at least one monstrous game this season. The Falcons should be stacking the box and daring the Bucs to pass, anyways, as Garcia isn't exactly scaring anyone on deep throws.
Byron Leftwich's likely return to the starting lineup (though Pet Rhino is whistling his way through it) gives the Falcons a real chance at a deep passing game, which would exploit the major defensive weakness of the Bucs. Their secondary hasn't allowed a ton of yards through the air, but Roddy White and Laurent Robinson should be able to stretch the field. On paper, I really like Leftwich's matchup here, but the fact that he may not be completely healthy and is still a stone statue in the backfield scares me a little. I'll try to repress it.
Finally, let's give kudos to our most consistent scoring option: Morten Andersen. Yes, he was kicking rocks at mastodons long before he came to the Falcons, but the guy's been steady and probably the most sane and rational person on the whole damn team. If the Falcons aren't targeting a kicker in the draft next year, I say they go ahead and just keep Morten around for another year. Until he proves his leg strength prevents him from kicking anything over 40, he's definitely solid and provides me with an unending supply of jokes. Chances are that he banks at least 2 or 3 field goals Sunday.
So that's that. Thoughts?