The last time the Buccaneers and Falcons met, Tampa Bay defeated the Dirty Birds 16-13 to take control of the NFC South. The Bucs raced to a 4-2 start, including a win over the Saints and seemed ready to take the next step.
Then reality hit. 9 consecutive losses later, Bucs coach Raheem Morris may be coaching for his job (if his fate isn’t already sealed with the past four putrid performances).
Meanwhile, with the NFC South in the hands of the Saints, it’s all about playoff positioning for the Falcons. Would they rather return to New Orleans – where they were trounced last week – or would they like to try their luck against the NFC East champions?
A win by Atlanta combined with a loss by Detroit in Green Bay (a certainty – at least for the last 20 years or so) would give the Falcons the fifth seed and a game against the fourth seed winner of NY Giants-Dallas Sunday night showdown.
Here’s the capsule of Sunday’s game, courtesy of the Associated Press:
TAMPA BAY (4-11) At ATLANTA (9-6)
Sunday, 4:15 p.m. Fox
OPENING LINE — Falcons by 10½
RECORD VS. SPREAD — Atlanta 7-7-1; Tampa Bay 4-11
SERIES RECORD — Buccaneers lead 19-17
LAST MEETING — Buccaneers beat Falcons 16-13, Sept. 25
LAST WEEK — Falcons lost to Saints 45-16; Buccaneers lost to Panthers 48-16
BUCS OFFENSE — OVERALL (21), RUSH (30), PASS (16)
BUCS DEFENSE — OVERALL (30), RUSH (21), PASS (24)
FALCONS OFFENSE — OVERALL (10), RUSH (20), PASS (7)
FALCONS DEFENSE — OVERALL (12), RUSH (8), PASS (19)
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Falcons 25-6 at Georgia Dome since Mike Smith hired as coach in 2008. Only New England and Baltimore have won more home games during that stretch. … Atlanta in playoffs two straight years for first time in franchise history. … Tampa Bay will attempt to sweep Falcons for fourth time since NFC South created in 2002. … Bucs victory in September snapped five-game series losing streak. … Tampa Bay has lost nine straight overall. … Josh Freeman needs 82 yards passing to become first Tampa Bay QB with consecutive 3,400-yard seasons. He is 1-4 against Falcons with 56.8 passer rating that includes pair of interceptions in Week 3. … CB Ronde Barber can pass retired LB Derrick Brooks with 224th game played for Tampa Bay, a franchise record. Barber has made 199 consecutive starts, another franchise high. … Falcons have won four of last six. … QB Matt Ryan coming off season-high 373 yards passing in blowout loss at New Orleans. His 52 attempts matched season high from Nov. 13 overtime home loss to Saints. … Falcons 27-2 when RB Michael Turner has at least 21 rushing attempts. … WR Roddy White leads NFC with 96 catches and has 1,000-plus yards receiving for franchise-best five straight years. … TE Tony Gonzalez needs 53 yards receiving to reach 13,383 and pass Torry Holt for 10th place on NFL career list. … DE John Abraham needs 1 1/2 sacks for seventh season with 10 or more.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.