This Sunday’s game against the Falcons is a lot of things.
It’s a division rivalry. It’s this year’s rookie quarterback against last year’s rookie sensation. It’s a struggling team against a rebuilding franchise. It’s Falcon president and former Buccaneer general manager Rich McKay, who put together the team that won Super Bowl XXXVII, against new general manager Mark Dominik, who is too busy playing musical coordinators to worry about who’s on the field.
And it’s a game nobody outside One Buc Place thinks the Bucs have a chance at winning. And they’re probably right, except for some similarities between the Falcons and another team the Bucs played well against this season.
When the Bucs met the Packers in Week 9, the Packers were hovering around .500, second in their division to an NFC powerhouse. They had a young quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, in his second year as a starter and struggling to find a way to win games and live up to high expectations. They were coming off a heartbreaking loss after the Minnesota Favres beat them at home, and the team had no real direction other than backwards. The struggles continued for the Pack, as the Bucs got their first win of the season, 38-28.
Now comes Atlanta.
Now, you could argue that this is the perfect week for the Falcons to find that identity, and it would be hard to rebut. Or, you could take the striking similarity between this matchup and that with the Packers earlier in the year and predict a strong Buccaneer performance. What this leaves us with is one of the most difficult games on the schedule to predict, as anything from a Connor Barth game-winner to a Falcon blowout seems possible.
So, I’ve decided there’s only one fair way to decide: Magic Eight-Ball. Whatever the Magic Eight-Ball decides, Bucs or Falcons, I will predict the victory to be by eight points.
So, I ask you, Magic Eight-Ball, will the Buccaneers defeat the Falcons in the Georgia Dome on Sunday?
(Shake, shake, shake . . .)
While the blue bubbles settle, let me also say that Tony Gonzalez is one of the most difficult tight ends in the NFL to defend, and he will likely give the Bucs some problems in the middle of the field. Running back Michael Turner is a game-time decision, but will likely play, as will Jerious Norwood, giving the Falcons the balanced attack they’re accustomed to having.
However, the Falcons are ranked 24th against the run, so Cadillac Williams could have a big day indoors. And, if the running game doesn’t come through, the Falcons are 29th against the pass. Both favorable matchups for Tampa Bay. Raheem Morris also makes his debut as defensive coordinator.
"Signs point to ‘Yes’," reads the Magic Eight-Ball.
So, there you have it. In a battle of two teams that have only three things in common: Their current struggles, the NFC South and the color red, the Buccaneers get the Magic nod.
Now, when I asked the Magic Eight-Ball if Vanessa from my third grade gifted class liked me, it told me yes, and man, was it wrong. For Tampa Bay’s sake, let’s hope that was a fluke.
Prediction: Buccaneers 28, Falcons 20.