GAME OF THE WEEK
(3-2) ATLANTA FALCONS V TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (3-1)
Falcons 7 - 23 Buccaneers
Five weeks into the season and teams are starting to sort themselves apart. However the NFC South is congested, three teams sitting on three wins. Two of those happen to meet this week in their thirty-first meeting in the RZL. Tampa Bay has dominated the past meetings and have been the bench setters of the division, possibly the league. The Falcons have been blanketed in the shadows and are desperate to emerge out and cast their own. This game could tell us, will history repeat itself and the dominance continue? Or have the tides turned and a new team is ready to take on the rest of the league?
ATL - QB J.Clausen - 90/168, 1444 YDS, 13 TD's, 3 INT's = 100.9 RAT
TB - QB D.Hansen - 50/100, 650 YDS, 3 TD's, 3 INT's = 68.3 RAT
ATL - HB R.Jewell - 40 CAR's, 261 YDS, 6.53 AVG, 4 TD's
TB - HB T.Richardson - 63 CAR's, 358 YDS, 5.68 AVG, 3 TD's
ATL - WR J.Blackmon - 28 REC, 507 YDS, 3 TD's
TB - WR D.Edgell - 13 REC, 223 YDS, 2 TD's
ATL - LB D.Hightower - 38 TAK's
TB - LB J.James - 29 TAK's
ATL - LB H.Reed - 4 SCK's
TB - DT D.Poe - 2 SCK's
ATL - CB P.Gonzales - 2 INT's for 24 YDS
TB - S R.Taylor- 2 INT for 82 YDS
Falcons - HB Mikel LeShoure 10 Weeks, LB Kelvin Sheppard Out for the Season.
Atlanta have lost two star players on either side of the ball. Former first round pick LeShoure is coming off a 15 touchdown season and is a massive loss for the Falcons. Rookie Ralph Jewell has done well in his absence, but he isn't the same calibre. Atlanta boosts one of the top linebacker corps in the league when healthy, however they are without Sheppard for the remainder or the year. It could be a big weakness in containing the high power offences in the South.
Buccaneers - TE Anthony McCoy Out for the Season
The Buccaneers have been lucky in regards to injury, only losing a tight end for the year. McCoy's loss isn't ideal but its no set back for Tampa Bay. Young and quick Dwayne Allen is a worthy replacement and keeps the Buccs offence in good shape.
Falcons LB Hugh Reed V Buccaneers OT Jared Velheer
Falcons linebacker Hugh Reed has been a nightmare for offences ever since he entered the league. A gift at taking down players behind the line and a opportunistic type defender. Jared Velheer will have enough on his hands with the Falcons front four, but he will have to be aware of Reed when he decides to blitz. If Reed makes a habit of getting past it will be a long day for the Buccaneers offence.
Watch out Buccaneers!
In his first year in Atlanta, middle linebacker Donta Hightower has added to the talented linebacker corp. He is a physical and hard hitting player who can disrupt players early in a game. Tampa will have to be wary throwing crossing routes in his vicinity, he can lay out the smaller wideouts with ease and also punish the tail back in the backfield. Don't be surprised if Hightower makes a big play or two in this one.
Watch out Falcons!
First year Buccaneers Tye Williams has been slapping down everything thrown his way. He has only racked in one of the passes for a interception, however he is due to register his second and maybe third. If the Falcons target Williams it could cost them dearly, a lighting cornerback he will likely take it a long way back if not all the way. Falcons quarterback Jimmy Clausen has been good protecting the ball, he will have to continue it this week.
What they said..
Atlanta Falcons GM - Trevor Gloeckler
"This is a must win game for us. Only way to the playoffs is to improve our record vs the NFC south teams period!"
Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM - Anthony Fernandez
"The Falcons are an extremely talented team. Trevor Gloeckler has been as dedicated as anyone in trying to make them perform at that talent level, and this year he appears to be doing a great job. It will be a tough game, but my guys will be prepared to play."
A big game early in the NFC South, all team are in contention and a slip here could prove costly come the end of the year. All signs point to a Tampa Bay victory, history, home field and a lesser injury toll. However the Buccaneers aren't as good as many may think. They have yet to play up to the same level expected in Tampa. Atlanta on the other hand the Falcons have hit form, dominating performances in the past two weeks have them in good stead for a unlikely win in Tampa Bay. The Falcons are hungry, they will be ready to fight hard for this one and will do everything they can to become the new power in the South. Falcons by 2.