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A Preview of Week 17

Here it is. The final game of the 2011 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season on January 1st, 2012. The Bucs have an opportunity to start 2012 off on the right note, and set the pace for the rest of the year, leaving behind the past.

When Atlanta is throwing: One constant over the last few weeks has been the passing game of Matt Ryan and his top-flight targets at RB, WR, and TE. Ryan is up to a career high of 27 TD passes. He’s lit up 897 yards, 8 TDs and 0 INTs in the air the last three weeks. The Buccaneers are playing for pride in this game. I don’t think the pass rush will show up – though Ryan is much easier to force into bad situations than Cam Newton – but I think the defensive backs will either save Raheem Morris’ job or send him off with a decent present. Edge: Tampa Bay, slightly.

When Atlanta is running: If the Buccaneers had any semblance of a powerful offense, they could jump up 14-0 on the Falcons and push them into passing more. That won’t happen, so there is no hiding this weakness. Edge: Atlanta, strongly.

When Tampa Bay is throwing: Freeman has had his moments since the Packers game. I don’t think he’ll put together a complete game, yet he will have some success Edge: even.

When Tampa Bay is running: The Buccaneers may have a lot of guys whose roles or even roster spots they may need to reconsider – Stroughter, Briscoe, RB , even Winslow – but LeGarrette Blount is not one of them. A nice last game for Blount would give the Buccaneers fans a nice vibe as they prepare to wake up Monday to an early off-season for the fourth straight season. Edge: Tampa Bay, slightly.

PREDICTION: The Falcons probably have the choice between going to the NFC East team and going to the Saints to play for. The Bucs have Raheem Morris’ job to play for. I believe that even bad teams win a game once in a great spell. I also believe the Bucs are a little worse than bad, thus how they’ve managed to go winless for the better part of 3 months. They will close out on a high note, Raheem still gets a pink slip and a roster purge for the agest will ensue. Buccaneers 35, Falcons 28.

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