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A Preview Of Week 13

This game could have huge ramifications for both teams. Atlanta appears to some to be in the driver seat for home field throughout the playoffs. Tampa Bay is trying to fight off Green Bay, New York  and eventually Chicago for the  last playoff spot. Atlanta still has two walk-throughs left with Carolina, a 1-10 team with a physical, sporadically-effective defense and an offense that has needs almost everywhere except running back. Also, the Atlanta offensive line is the best in football, they are in the top 10 in points per game, yards per game and are .1 behind no. 1 Indy in first downs per game. If Atlanta wins this, it would be tough for even superior teams like Philadelphia or Green Bay to get home field. This is also difficult because Atlanta gets to go into Qwest Field where Seattle’s defense has been humbled recently.

When Tampa is throwing: Josh Freeman has shown an ability to bounce back from week to week. He needs better third down and red zone execution. I think Mike Williams still has a bad taste in his mouth from the first meeting. Tampa was able to hang around Atlanta last time by keeping their poise and not making big mistakes. The Tampa Bay offense is 25th in first downs but has a better TD-to-INT ratio than 16 teams ahead of them. The Falcons are 27th in passing yards allowed but are tied for 4th in interceptions. I expect Freeman to bounce back strong. Edge: Tampa Bay.

When Tampa is running: I still have faith in LeGarrette Blount but this is going to be a tough test. The only teams to go over 100 against the Dirty Birds in the last nine contests were Baltimore – who got 34 of their 116 on a couple of ‘Donte Stallworth runs – and Philadelphia who got 44 yards of their 154 on a couple of rushes by Desean Jackson. I think Tampa Bay does enough to keep the chains moving early on and, if the play-calling is strong, they could really wear down the Falcons late with some Graham and maybe some Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn. Edge: Tampa Bay, slightly.

When Atlanta is throwing: Matt Ryan will have a lot of time to throw. Other than Stylez White, there isn’t a pass-rusher on this team that has the repertoire of moves and overall athleticism to get consistent pressure against an elite line like this or New England’s. Since they last faced each other, Gerald McCoy has emerged but Atlanta has faced three of the fiercest pass rushes in Baltimore, St. Louis, and Green Bay. Suggs had both of his team’s 2 sacks, James Hall was shut out with the rest of the Rams, and Clay Matthews had neither of the Pack’s two sacks. The main problems I have here are Corey Lynch and the linebackers on Tony Gonzalez. I want Lynch to do well, believe he can do well, but hate that Mularkey will be calling the plays. If there’s a weakness on this defense he’ll find it. If that 67 yard touchdown didn’t get called back last week erroneously, the Tampa Bay secondary would have joined Josh Freeman and Greg Olson as the goats of the game. Edge: Atlanta.

When Atlanta is running: Atlanta only averages 4.1 yards a carry with the 4th highest number of attempts. Tampa’s run defense is 30th with 4.7 ypc given up. The Bucs have allowed 8 rushing TDs and 8 runs of 20 or more yards with 5 forced fumbles. Atlanta hasn’t turned the ball over in any of the four games since the bye, all wins. Edge: Atlanta.

Prediction: Atlanta shouldn’t get the calls since they are on the road but I really feel like this is a game that will be close until the fourth quarter where Atlanta will crack a weakness somewhere on the Bucs defense and get a touchdown to pull away.  I am often wrong when I pick against them. Atlanta has the least number of elite players of all the good teams but they have them where it counts and they have more of them in the prime of their careers than Tampa Bay does. Falcons 34, Buccaneers 20.

The rest of the games (home team in bold):
Jets 42, Patriots 20
Ravens 23, Steelers 14
Saints 55, Bengals 42
Giants 30, Redskins 21
Cardinals 22, Rams 21
Chargers 38, Raiders 20
Seahawks 35, Panthers 24
Titans 21, Jaguars 10
Colts 31, Cowboys 28
Dolphins 14, Browns 10
Chiefs 38, Broncos 35
Vikings 23, Bills 21
Lions 21, Bears 18
Packers 24, 49ers 14

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