Atlanta can all but clinch the NFC South with a victory in Tampa Bay today. The Falcons (9-1) bounced back from their lone loss last week beating Arizona 23-19 despite QB Matt Ryan tossing five interceptions. Winners of four straight, the Buccaneers (6-4) seek their first five game winning streak since 1992. Each team's stars are primed for a big game.
While Ryan struggled last week, he rallied the Falcons from a 13-0 deficit against the Cardinals, and today faces a Buc secondary that allows more passing yards than any other defense in the NFL. Tampa Bay has been shredded for 300 yards in the air six times this year, 400 yards once, and 500 yards against the Giants in week two. Ryan leads the league in passing yards
The Buccaneers have won four straight with an offense operating on all cylinders. During the last month the Bucs have averaged nearly 35 points a game. Rookie RB Doug Martin leads NFL backs and receivers averaging 132 total yards per game. Atlanta allows more than 130 yards a game on the ground. Meanwhile Buc QB Josh Freeman has thrown 13 touchdowns and been intercepted only twice in the last five games.
Tampa Bay returns home after an improbable overtime win at Carolina last week. Trailing 21-13 with just over a minute to play, the Bucs went 80 yards without timeouts for the tying score. Tampa WR Vincent Jackson's 24 yard TD grab in traffic with 12 seconds left cut the deficit to 21-19. Jackson caught Freeman's the two-point conversion toss to tie the game. Carolina lost their eleventh straight coin flip, Tampa Bay took the ball to start overtime, and Freeman hit TE Dallas Clark for the game winning score.
The Buccaneers are tied with Seattle and Minnesota for the final NFC playoff spot. Atlanta is in prime position for the number one overall seed and home-field advantage throughout the postseason. The Falcons are a game-and-a-half clear of San Francisco for the best mark in the conference and lead Tampa Bay by three games in the division. Whichever defense can contain their oppositions stars will go a long way towards positioning themselves well for the postseason.