The NFC South has long been a division worthy of respect, and thus it has long been worth it to respect the Falcons' opponents. Even in down years, all four teams usually at least fight like hell in divisional matchups.
This year, the Buccaneers have (forgive me) bucked that trend. Tampa Bay has only been blown out twice this season, but while they've managed to keep the score close, they've lost in horrific fashion again and again and again. They now stand at 1-7, having played just three teams with winning records over that span. They're 0-3 against the South. Their sole win came on the road, by three points, against a Steelers team that subsequently went on a gigantic hot streak.
It has been a nightmare season for this team, in other words, one that Bucs fans have to be hoping represents a baptism by fire that will be fixed by experience, high draft picks in 2014, and better luck in the year ahead. For now, all they can do is play spoiler, and they'll certainly be looking to do so as Lovie Smith attempts to right a ship riddled with more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese in a particle collider.
This all brings us to this weekend's game, which quite a few fans are writing off as a loss. Friends, while I absolutely understand not being overly confident in a win, I also can't see guaranteeing a loss. The Bucs are flip-flopping on Josh McCown and Mike Glennon at quarterback, they're suffering injuries that may force them to play an oversized bag of potatoes at left tackle and they have played horrendous football week-in and week-out this season. If the Falcons aren't showing much to engender confidence, the Bucs certainly aren't.
What works in the Falcons favor is that they're (relatively) healthy, coming off the bye week, and the Buccaneers do not appear to have any sort of homefield advantage this season. As we mentioned yesterday, Mike Smith's teams typically win after the bye, likely because he has the time to sit down, prepare and get ready to play some real Smittyball. Even if you don't believe Atlanta's going to win many games the rest of the way—and I completely understand that train of thought—you have to acknowledge this one gives the Falcons a good shot.
Your expectations for the game ahead?