The Atlanta Falcons have traditionally run the ball well, and time of possession is something they hang their hat on. Traditionally.
Toward the later parts of the current season, that run game took a backseat to the passing game. There are any number of reasons for this—we've speculated in the past—but one of them is that Michael Turner has been battling hard against a groin injury.
The Falcons would like to have him healthy, active and capable of contributing in a big way for the playoffs, so this will be the best opportunity to get him there. He's got a plum matchup ahead in the Buccaneers, who are 31st in the NFL against the run and incapable of slowing down a house plant with wheels.
If Turner can't get it done in this game—and it may be a small snapshot, because the Falcons may pull their starters in the second half or even earlier—it's time to start worrying. Whether it's scheme, his injury, the blocking or some combination of the three, it must be addressed before the playoffs. Hopefully he'll just run for 100 yards on five carries and call it a day.
That's my player to watch. Who's yours?