The Atlanta Falcons begin the second half of their 2014 regular season Sunday in Florida, facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Week 10 NFC South division matchup at Raymond James Stadium is scheduled for a 1 p.m. (ET) kickoff. The two division foes have met 42 times, splitting the all-time series, 21-21. The Falcons have won four of the last six contests, including a 56-14 win at the Georgia Dome on Thursday Night Football in Week 3. Atlanta's 56-point output against the Bucs was the second-highest scoring affair in club history.
Top Matchup: Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy vs Falcons guards Jon Asamoah & Justin Blalock
Earlier this week, Falcons head coach Mike Smith pinpointed that McCoy will be lined up over his guards at different times in Sunday's game. In seven games this season, McCoy has 21 tackles, five sacks and two passes defensed. If Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is going to have time to find his many weapons on offense, Asamoah and Blalock will need their best effort yet. "Everyone knows what he's capable of," Blalock said. "We have to do things in our game plan to make sure we know where he's at all times and keep him as controlled as we can, schematically. He's a guy that can make a several-touchdown difference on his own, just by him being out there."
Under the Radar Player to Watch: Falcons CB Desmond Trufant
Whether Trufant and the rest of the Falcons' secondary sees Bucs receiver Vincent Jackson (listed as questionable) on Sunday, they know Tampa's other wide receivers are equally capable of putting up big numbers. Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans has 32 receptions for 460 yards and two touchdowns in his rookie campaign. Part of Trufant's plan to try and eliminate the Bucs' downfield success is to "use my strengths, speed, physicality and good footwork, to counter what they're good at," Trufant said.
On the Radar Player to Watch: Falcons WR Devin Hester
The last time the Bucs saw Falcons wide receiver Devin Hester, he broke Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Deion Sanders' NFL record for return touchdowns, following a 62-yard punt return score. Hester also scored his first-career rushing touchdown on a 20-yard reverse, leading to his team's eventual 56-14 win in Week 3. There's no doubt, Bucs head coach Lovie Smith has Hester on his team's radar.
Number of the Game: 4
Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas is listed as questionable for Sunday's game. He was limited in two practices this week, before fully participating in the team's Friday workout. If cleared to play, Falcons fans hope Douglas will add to his current four-game touchdown streak against the Bucs.
Three Keys to Victory:
1. The McCoy Factor is Real: While the team's offensive line knows the huge challenge it faces against McCoy, Falcons receivers also commented on just how vital it will be contain his superhero-like strength. Douglas described McCoy as a 'man-child', who needs to be accounted for on every play.
2. Avoid the Rainey Season: The last time the Falcons traveled to Tampa Bay (Week 11 in 2013), Bucs running back Bobby Rainey helped run his team to a 41-28 victory, finishing with 163 yards and two touchdowns. Limiting his explosiveness, forcing Tampa Bay into third-and-longs, could prove more than beneficial for Mike Smith's team on Sunday.
3. Close the Deal: Falcons players were asked all week about what they need to do to ideally land their third win of the season on Sunday; their response, finish strong. Starting fast is always vital, but the results at the end of the game are those that matter most.