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Ulysses

Bucs v Falcons Scouting Report

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ATL: QB, RB, WR, OL

TB: DL, LB, CB, ST, Coach

There are a lot of reasons to watch this game, because the competition in the NFC South is fierce, and all four teams' playoff hopes are still alive. The Bucs are coming off a disappointing performance against the Panthers on Monday night, and they have a short week to prepare for an angry Falcons team that will also be looking to get back on track after losing to the Saints.

When Tampa Bay has the ball

QB Jeff Garcia has established a solid relationship with WR Antonio Bryant in the passing game, as evidenced by Bryant's nine catches and 200 yards Monday night against the Panthers. However, the other Bucs receivers need to step up to keep teams from rolling coverage to Bryant's side. Several players had a case of the drops last week, and Garcia will need them to be more reliable if they are going to have success against the Falcons' defense.

Tampa Bay's rushing offense features RBs Warrick Dunn and Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and will look for similar opportunities to run on the Falcons, like the Saints found last week. Lead draws and delays were effective against the Falcons' nickel personnel, and Tampa has the big bodies up front to open similar holes for Dunn and Williams. Garcia will also continue to use his mobility and creativity to locate open receivers in the passing game and extend plays, but his supporting cast has to do a better job of catching the ball before getting upfield in the Buccaneers' short passing game.

When Atlanta has the ball

Atlanta's run game looks to flourish this week after seeing the Panthers run all over the Bucs' defense Monday night. Controlling the clock and wearing down the Bucs' defense should be a priority for Atlanta with RB Michael Turner running behind the Falcons' physical offensive line. Turner has been exceptional in his first season as a starter, but he has to be disappointed with his 18-carry, 61-yard performance last week. We expect to see a heavy dose of Turner in this game after seeing Tampa Bay struggle to get off blocks and miss tackles repeatedly last week.

It isn't likely the Bucs will duplicate their performance with coordinator Monte Kiffin running the show, but the Falcons should try to wear them down, with Turner attacking the inside and Jerious Norwood using his speed and receiving skills on the perimeter. QB Matt Ryan has consistently hooked up with WR Roddy White in the passing game, and the Bucs will have to be sound in coverage to limit the amount of damage the league's leading receiver has in this game.

Matchup to watch

Falcons RB Michael Turner vs. Buccaneers' run defense

The most recent time these teams met, Turner was held to 42 yards rushing on 14 attempts and the Falcons failed to reach the end zone after falling behind early. The Falcons need a physical running game, led by Turner, to control the clock and limit the number of passing attempts Ryan must make against the opportunistic Bucs secondary.

Keys to

Success

1Don't get run over: The Bucs' No. 1 priority has to be preventing the Falcons from running over them like the Panthers did. It will be essential for the front seven to maintain gap discipline, use their hands to get off blocks and wrap up ball carriers on first contact. The block tackling in traffic and the missed tackles in space by the secondary cannot be repeated for them to have a chance in this game.

2Draws and delays: It's often been said this is a copycat league, and the Buccaneers should take a page out of the Saints' playbook. The Falcons often take MLB Curtis Lofton off the field in sub group personnel, and the Saints ran weakside lead draws and inside delays to perfection against the Falcons. If the Bucs can get their linemen to the second level quickly to block in space, Dunn and Williams might have similar success.

3Take pressure off Bryant: Coach Jon Gruden likes to utilize all of his offensive weapons and usually spreads the ball around in the passing game. Nine different players were involved in the passing game Monday, but it was Bryant who made the biggest impact. The Falcons will focus on taking Bryant out of the equation until someone else consistently makes plays. It will be up to the tight ends and other receivers to create separation and catch the ball consistently when given opportunities.

Keys to

Success

1Pound it with Turner: Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey does an excellent job of calling plays and taking advantage of a team's weakness. Tampa Bay has shown that it can wear down defensively and will be forced to play eight in the box to limit Atlanta's success on the ground. As a result the Falcons should rely heavily on the power running game and have Turner attack inside holes created by RG Harvey Dahl, C Todd McClure and LG Justin Blalock.

2Stretch the field: White has been spectacular this season, and his vertical ability should be utilized. Ryan does an outstanding job delivering the ball off play-action, and White has proven to be a threat at all levels of the passing game. The vertical routes in particular, like go routes, posts and deep comebacks will be available when Tampa Bay crowds the box.

3Fast start: When the Falcons get off to a quick start, they are highly successful (6-0 when they score on their opening drive). By using the hurry-up offense and getting to the line of scrimmage quickly, Ryan can force the defense to show their hand and prevent them from substituting out of a favorable matchup. The Falcons can help get off to a quick start by running the no-huddle after a few big plays in the first few series of the game.

Scouts Edge

The home team has definitely had the edge this season in the NFC South, but we are favoring the Falcons due to their superior run game. Tampa Bay has a short week to prepare and several problems to fix after losing to Carolina on Monday night. The power running game should be on display with Turner setting up the play-action passing for Ryan. Back-to-back divisional road games for the Buccaneers are a tall order, considering the two teams they are facing. We like Atlanta in this rematch.

Prediction

Tampa Bay 23

Atlanta 27

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