Why Atlanta Falcons Will Avenge Week 16 Loss and Blow out Bucs
Week 16 was a huge letdown for the Atlanta Falcons and everyone involved—physically or emotionally—with the franchise.
Instead of potentially competing in Week 17 for the NFC South title, they had their doors blown off by the New Orleans Saints, and now could end up with the last seed for the playoffs.
It was a bleak reminder of just how tough the Saints have been to beat. Fortunately for Atlanta, the final week of the season is nowhere near the level of adversity they faced in their previous matchup.
Tampa Bay rolls into town for a Week 17 showdown with nothing on the line. The wheels have not just fallen off for the Buccaneers, they have disappeared entirely. Raheem Morris has been placed on the proverbial hot seat, as his club has dropped nine games straight.
Long ago in Week 4 Tampa found itself on a three-game winning streak. The Bucs have won just one game since.
After this unfortunate run of failure, you should see why the Falcons can be optimistic about Week 17. They may have lost to Tampa in their first game of the series this season, but this time around Atlanta will prove who the dominant team is.
Here are some reasons why.
1) Tampa Has Fallen Off, Completely
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I've already ripped on the Bucs enough, so feel free to skip on to the next slide if you're tired of hearing about their fallout.
So, what can we expect from a team that has lost nine straight, ranks 30th in total defense and hasn't come within double digits of an opponent in four weeks?
Not a lot, in short.
The Bucs managed to defeat the Falcons way back in Week 3 by a final of 16-13. Atlanta made a late surge and appeared destined for victory, until Corey Peters jumped offsides, giving Josh Freeman the simple option of kneeling with the ball.
Tampa honestly did not play a great game that afternoon.
Freeman only threw for 180 yards and finished with no touchdowns and two picks. However, Atlanta was still in the midst of an early-season identity crisis, and they didn't have a stellar performance either.
The Falcons finished with the same score against Jacksonville in Week 15, except it was Atlanta coming out on top, as they completely subdued the Jags.
Let's face it, the Bucs don't have much to offer, or to play for. Who knows what the mindset of their head coach will be entering the final game of 2011? Tampa should be an easy opponent for Atlanta this Sunday.
2) Atlanta Hasn't Lost Back-to-Back Games All Season
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The Falcons' performance in the Superdome on Monday night was depressing, to put it lightly.
New Orleans was clearly the favorite going into that matchup, but many believed the Falcons would at least put up a fight.
After a loss like this, I can only expect Mike Smith will want to erase that bad taste of defeat. If there's one thing the man is good at, it is figuring out how to prepare his team after they've been vanquished.
Atlanta hasn't lost back-to-back games since 2009. Say whatever you want about him, but there's no denying Smith can get his team to bounce back quickly.
3) Record Against Sub-.500 Teams
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Along with their ability to bounce back after losses, the Falcons are also great at coming through when they're supposed to.
You'll hear plenty of criticism about the team being unable to beat the elite of the NFL, but they have no problem taking down the lower-tier organizations.
Atlanta hasn't lost to a sub-.500 team in all of 2011. Out of all of their losses, Tampa is clearly the most embarrassing. But, in their defense, the Bucs were much more competitive at that point.
Even though they let inferior opponents linger longer than they should, the Falcons have been able to close out strong against their weaker foes.
This week should be no different.
4) Playoff Push
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Atlanta is already in the playoffs, so don't think the title means they're still trying to make it.
It means that this team still has a chance to move up a spot in the conference, giving them something to work toward in the finale of the regular season.
The Falcons need Detroit to lose to the Packers this weekend, but assuming that happens, a win will put Atlanta at No. 5 in the NFC. That could make all the difference in the Falcons' chances of winning their first playoff game with Mike Smith and Matt Ryan.
If the playoffs began right now, the Falcons would have to go back to New Orleans to take on their division rival, again. If they move to the No. 5 seed, they will play the winner of the Cowboys-Giants game this weekend.
Which one sounds more appealing for Atlanta?
Although it would be nice to see Atlanta take down the Saints at home in the playoffs, defeating the Cowboys or Giants would be a much easier task.
They have to win against Tampa even to have a chance at this opportunity, so one can only assume they will be giving 110 percent on Sunday.