The 9-2 Atlanta Falcons travel to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers this Sunday in hopes of distancing themselves further from their division rivals in the NFC South.
The game is the first of three straight road games for the Super Bowl hopeful Falcons, a stretch head coach Mike Smith said will be crucial to their push for home-field advantage in the playoffs.
“I think it’s very important for us as a team and as a staff is to make sure that our guys are well rested both physically and mentally,” said Smith. “We’ve made adjustments already to our practice schedule over the last couple of weeks in terms of reducing the workload both on the field and in the meeting rooms, trying to get these guys as fresh as possible because traveling is hard on the body and we’re going to be doing that for the next three weeks.”
The Falcons defeated the Buccaneers 27-21 in their first meeting at the Georgia Dome in Week 9, in which they held off a late Buccaneers push near the goal line.
“It was a very hard-fought game against Tampa here in the Dome,” said Smith. “We know what we’re going to have to defend and we know how we’re going to have to attack their defense.
“They’re very familiar with us. I think it will be a typical NFC South game that will be very highly competitive.”
The Falcons have not lost at home in 2010 and quarterback Matt Ryan is an impressive 19-1 at home in his young career.
After this Sunday’s tilt with the Buccaneers, the Falcons travel to Carolina to face the 1-10 Panthers, whom they have yet to play but should have little difficulty with, before heading to Seattle to face the 5-6 Seahawks at Qwest Field, arguably one of the loudest, most difficult stadiums for opposing teams to play in.
“Our approach is that we have to go in and try to set the tempo just like we do at home when we’re on the road,” said Smith. “I think the quicker you can set the tempo the better chance you have of having the type of game you want to have there on the road.”
The Falcons’ three-game road stretch starts in Tampa Bay Sunday at 4:15 EDT.
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