As seasons go, this one has been forgettable for both the Buccaneers and Falcons. While Atlanta, fresh off of hosting the NFC title game and just a few yards away from advancing was regarded one of the league's best and a Super Bowl contender, Tampa Bay was viewed as a team on the cusp that may challenge the Falcons in the NFC South.
The teams are a combined 1-9.
Its ironic how similar the stories have been for the Bucs and Falcons. Both have blown close games, both teams have seen their share of injuries and both feel the weight of expectation upon them.
That of course is where the similarities end. Atlanta hasn't had to deal with the feud between the quarterback and the coach that resulted in whiny interviews, concerning accusations and the quarterback being released.
Atlanta has also not had to deal with an outbreak of the nasty staff infection MRSA.
The Falcons players are all 100% behind their coach, Mike Smith while the Bucs players? Not so much on SchiaNO and he's weird ways.
But at the site where Greg SchiaNo saw his last coaching victory, one has to wonder if this is where he gets his next one.
Series Record: Tampa Bay leads 20-19
Last Meeting: Tampa Bay beat Atlanta 22-17 on December 30th, 2012
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Game vs. Atlanta Falcons Pass Defense
The Bucs' Mike Glennon has had a good account of himself in his first two ball games. The rookie is 50 of 86 for 466 yds, 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He's also lost a fumble.
While he certainly hasn't been lighting up the scoreboard, he has shown some things the Bucs haven't seen from their quarterback in quite some time. Accurately delivered passes, ability to hit the check down - all things that are crucial for an NFL quarterback to do.
Where Glennon has struggled is stretching the field. He's yet to complete a pass over 31 yds (0 for 4). His turnovers have come in the second half of games where the opponents adjust to what the Bucs have been doing and force the rookie into mistakes.
For the second straight week, Glennon will be facing a defense that isn't particularly good at stopping the pass. Atlanta ranks 26th in the NFL against the pass, surrendering 274.8 yds per game. The Falcons are also near the bottom of the league in sacks with just 11 on the year. Atlanta's secondary only has 3 interceptions on the season.
Of course, the Bucs are dead in the league passing the ball.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Attack vs. Atlanta Falcons Run Defense
For Bucs running back Doug Martin, the move to Mike Glennon has been a nightmare. Teams are putting 8 and 9 guys in the box and truth be told, the offensive line has been terrible at run blocking this season. The holes just have not been there for Martin and he's had to make amazing athletic plays just to get the football back to the line of scrimmage. Martin has rushed for 409 yds but only 3.5 yds a carry and 1 touchdown.
Despite being without some of their top players in the front seven, Atlanta has done a solid job against the run, ranking 6th in the NFL.
Atlanta Falcons Passing Game vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pass Defense
Atlanta was once one of the most feared passing attacks in the NFL, ranking 2nd in the league. Injuries have neutered the Falcons' passing game, leaving quarterback Matt Ryan to rely on the ageless Tony Gonzalez, a 3rd string receiver in Harry Douglas and a bunch of young guys.
With the amazing Julio Jones in IR and the veteran Roddy White hobbled, you can expect fewer dynamic plays in the passing game that Falcons fans are used to seeing.
After being one of the league's worst teams against the pass, the Bucs have spent a lot of money and focus on improving the secondary. It's paid off as Tampa Bay has gone from downright terrible to serviceable (16th). Revis has been solid, although the Bucs have been "protecting him" by playing him off the line of scrimmage and a bit in zone. The few times they allow him to go mano-e-mano with an opposing receiver, he's looked like Revis.
Johnthan Banks has had his good moments and bad, as you would expect from any rookie and Leonard Johnson has been serviceable. Safety play has been a little suspect of late for Tampa Bay. While both Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron have had some highlight reel plays - both have made big mistakes in coverage (especially Barron) that have hurt the defense.
The Bucs typically bring and aggressive, blitzing pass rush and are led by linebacker Lavonte David's 4 sacks.
Advantage: Tampa Bay
Atlanta Falcons Rushing Attack vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Run Defense
While not quite as stout as last season, the Buccaneers run defense is still solid at 13th in the league. They'll face an Atlanta team that again will be without their workhorse Steven Jackson. Jason Snelling returns from a concussion and the mercurial Jacquizz Rodgers can always wreak havoc.
Atlanta comes in with 25th ranked rushing offense in the league.
Advantage: Tampa Bay
Rian Lindell has rebounded from a terrible start to the season, nailing 5 of 7 field goals, with a long of 50. Michael Koenen continues to handle the punting duties for Tampa Bay, averaging 43.8 yards a punt.
The Bucs lost Kick Returner Jeff Demps to a groin injury, so Eric Page will take those duties over. Page has been a solid punt returner, averaging 11.4 yds a return. He's averaging 30 yds a return on kickoffs, but on just three attempts.
Atlanta's Matt Bryant continues to get the job done. The former Buc is 3 for 4 in field goals this season with a long of 52. Matt Bosher continues to punt the tar out of the ball for the Falcons, averaging 47.4 yds a punt.
Quizz Rodgers is the team's kick returner, averaging 23 yds a return. Harry Douglas has been handling the punt return duties, averaging a pedestrian 5.7 yds a return.
By the Numbers
- Atlanta's Matt Ryan has lost back-to-back home starts for the first time in his career. He is 34-7 overall.
- Prior to those two games Ryan had won 12 of his last 13 home starts (not including the playoffs). The one loss was to Tampa Bay.
- Atlanta is 10-8 lifetime at home versus Tampa Bay
- Atlanta has won 7 of the last 9 against Tampa Bay
- 7 of the last 9 meetings between the teams have been decided by 7 points or less.
- This is Mike Glennon's first road game as a starter.
- Roddy White has never missed a start in his NFL career, Sunday White may not be available. He currently has a streak of 133 games.
If not now, when? That's the questions Buc fans are asking themselves. The Bucs dysfunctional family heads into the ATL to face a Falcons team that has been devastated by injuries. Take a look at The Falcoholic and see some Falcon fans calling for Mike Smith's head. Really? The same Mike Smith whose given the Falcons their longest run of success in the franchise's history?
That's the way it is in the NFL. It's a Not For Long league if you're not winning ballgames. Greg SchiaNO's last coaching victory was at the venue where his team will play football this Sunday. The Bucs came into that game with a five game losing streak as well.
Will history repeat? It very well could. The Falcons have never been more vulnerable. A quick lead by the Bucs and Atlanta could start feeling sorry for themselves and their fans will get restless. Huge expectations will do that.
But truly, even against a depleted Falcons team - do you honestly believe Mike Glennon can go to Atlanta and lead his team to a victory? Do you trust the Bucs defensive schemes to take away Tony Gonzalez and render the Falcons offense inert? Do you think Greg SchiaNO can beat Mike Smith in a close game?
If not now, when?
Prediction: Falcons 20, Buccaneers 10