The Atlanta Falcons have wrapped up the NFC South title and will have home-field advantage and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
The Falcons Week 17 tilt against the 6-9 Buccaneers seems meaningless. For starters, Sunday provides an opportunity for rest—an opportunity to look ahead to a joyous and prosperous new year. But the Falcons are not resting on what they have accomplished. They are looking to end 2012 the way they want to begin 2013—with perfection.
A perfect game on Sunday will give them a perfect home record. More importantly, it will give them a bushel of confidence heading into the playoffs, which is why they are approaching this game as they have the previous 15.
In his weekly press conference, Falcons head coach Mike Smith told reporters the team was focusing on defeating a divisional opponent, which makes it just as important as any other game:
"We're going to play the game to win," Smith said. "That's how we're going to approach it. It's an important game because it's a division game. All games, I think, are important. In terms of the importance of it, does it have no bearing? It really does, because we want to win every time we go out and play."
After railing off a five-game win streak prior to its first meeting, Tampa Bay is in the midst of a five-game losing streak. Atlanta initiated Tampa Bay's downfall with a 24-23 win in Week 12.
Both teams are playing for pride: Atlanta for the pride of a perfect home record and a perfect game, and Tampa Bay for self pride and franchise future.
With a week off before playing its first playoff game, Atlanta should hold nothing back, wrap this one up early, and give the starters a much-deserved curtain call and the backups much-needed reps.
Here are 10 ways Atlanta can wrap-up a perfect home record and gift Tampa Bay with its 10th loss of the season.