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Ask the Expert: Tampa Tribune's Ira Kaufman

Reggie Roberts: The Buccaneers fell to 0-2 on Sunday with a heart-breaking home loss to the Rams. Are the Bucs better than their 0-2 record would otherwise indicate?


Ira Kaufman: You make your own breaks in the NFL and the Bucs haven't done enough in all three phases through the first two weeks. They didn't show up offensively against the Panthers in Week 1 until late in the game and on Sunday, special teams broke down with a blocked punt and a blocked field goal. Defensively, a talented unit hasn't made the key stops and the Bucs have generated only one takeaway. There's not much to crow about when you start the season losing two home games to backup quarterbacks.

RR: Thursday night's matchup will be on national television between two NFC South division rivals who usually play close games. Who do you like in this game and who has the edge?

IK: Matt Ryan and the Falcons usually play a lot bigger at home (37-12 since 2008 at the Georgia Dome). Before last season's debacle, Atlanta had reeled off a 33-7 mark at the Georgia Dome since 2008, and NFL teams have learned you can never count Ryan out until the clock reads zeroes across. Veteran QB Josh McCown is hitting 68 percent of his passes for Tampa Bay, but he has already been picked off three times — compared to only once in 224 throws last year in Chicago. That difference under center should prove the difference Thursday night in an Atlanta victory.

RR: The Falcons rolled up 568 yards of offense in Week 1 with a 37-34 overtime win over the Saints, but struggled offensively and fell 24-10 to a very good Bengals team last Sunday in Cincinnati. Which Falcons team do you think we will see on Thursday night in the Georgia Dome against Tampa Bay?

IK: The timing for Tampa Bay couldn't be much worse. The Bucs were already hurting on defense with left end Adrian Clayborn and CB Mike Jenkins out for the year. Gerald McCoy's availability is now in question after the All-Pro defensive tackle suffered a hand injury Sunday against the Rams. Middle linebacker Mason Foster hurt his shoulder and might be sidelined and key FA addition Michael Johnson, a key pass rusher off the right side, is nursing a sore ankle. If Johnson and McCoy don't play, the Falcons will likely stretch the field and capitalize on an erratic pass rush, so I expect them to score at least three TDs.

RR: Defensively, are the Buccaneers as good as advertised, and what have they done well so far this season?

IK: A flurry of injuries has decimated a defense that is supposed to be the strength of the team. The defense has been OK, but that's not what Lovie Smith had in mind when he arrived in January and added Johnson, DT Clinton McDonald and CB Alterraun Verner in free agency after the Bucs released Darrelle Revis. The rush defense has been solid, but the Bucs haven't covered well, especially on third down, and opposing QBs have combined for a passer rating of 104.3. Look for All-Pro OLB Lavonte David to get more involved and provide a spark Thursday night for a team desperate for a win.

RR: Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson was re-instated by his team early Monday and will play on Sunday when the Vikings host the New Orleans Saints? Is this the right move for the NFL?

IK: The league and the Vikings are caught in a tough position. The charges against Peterson are disturbing to say the least, but the man is entitled to due process. Many Viking fans will welcome Peterson back because he can help the team win, but they may not have him for long because the whole pro football world is watching this drama unfold.

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