Wednesday, Nov. 14
Injury update, 6:01 p.m.
Here is the injury report for Wednesday — Bucs: Did not participate in practice — DE Greg Spires (calf); Limited participation in practice — LB Quincy Black (hamstring), DE Patrick Chuwkurah (shoulder), WR Michael Clayton (ankle), WR Joey Galloway (team decision), RB Earnest Graham (ankle), WR Ike Hilliard (calf), RB Michael Pittman (ankle), TE Alex Smith (ankle), T Jeremy Trueblood (shoulder). Falcons: Did not participate in practice — WR Joe Horn (hamstring), T Todd Weiner (knee); Limited participation in practice — RB Warrick Dunn (team decision), QB Byron Leftwich (ankle), DT Trey Lewis (shoulder), RB Jerious Norwood (ankle).
Gruden wouldn't say if players like Pittman or Smith would play on Sunday, but I think their limited practice reps on Wednesday were probably out of caution. I think you'll see the majority of players move to full participation by the end of the week. I would be stunned if they didn't.
To read Jon Gruden's entire Wednesday press conference, click here to access this premium feature.
Harrington speaks, 2:35 p.m.
Atlanta quarterback Joey Harrington just told us that he doesn't know how the quarterback situation will play out this weekend. His head coach, Bobby Petrino, would not commit to a starting quarterback earlier today, even though Harrington has led the Falcons to two straight wins.
Byron Leftwich is expected to return from injury this week and may start on Sunday.
"It doesn't change how I will prepare for this game," Harrington said. "If that means prepare to be the starter, that's what I'll do. If it means being the backup, that's what I'll do."
Spires injury update, 12:10 p.m.
Just spoke to DE Greg Spires in the locker room. He's expected to miss at least two more games with his torn calf. He said he's on the treadmill and elliptical machines in the training room and hopes to be running next week. If the 4-to-5 week prognosis is accurate, Spires could be back in the lineup for the New Orleans game on Dec. 2. Also, RB Michael Pittman was in very good spirits in the locker room. He's a lock to play and I'll explore his impact later this week.
Falcons QB quandary, 10:51 a.m.
Falcons head coach Bobby Petrino just told the Tampa media that the quarterback situation for the Falcons will be based on who's healthy, which leads Petrino to think that Joey Harrington will start on Sunday against Tampa Bay.
"Right now you would have to say it's Joey," Petrino said. "We haven't seen Byron in practice yet so we'll just have to wait and see."
Leftwich injected the offense with some life three weeks ago in a loss to New Orleans before getting hurt and missing the last two games. He's expected to be available for Sunday's game in some capacity.
My NFC South predictions, 10:31 a.m.
Looking at the NFC right now, there are two clear picks to make the playoffs — Dallas and Green Bay. They're not lead-pipe locks, but they're close. I think Dallas is slightly better and will get the No. 1 seed. Green Bay will certainly get the No. 2 seed. I don't see either team collapsing.
I believe the Bucs have a solid chance to getting the No. 3 playoff seed if they do the following — win three of their remaining four divisional games and beat two of their three remaining games against Washington, Houston and San Francisco. Two of those are on the road.
That would give Tampa Bay a 10-6 record. I like their chances of being a No. 3 seed if they reach 10 wins because I think Seattle can win the NFC West with nine victories this year. The Bucs would need to finish with a better record than the NFC West champion, especially if it's Seattle, in order to get that No. 3 seed.
I think the No. 3 seed is important because I think the Bucs match up better with a No. 6 Wild Card team at home, rather than a No. 5 Wild Card team. Plus, I like Tampa Bay's chances against Green Bay better than Dallas in a Divisional playoff game. But we'll see. We still have seven weeks left.
But my playoff seeds right now? In order, it's Dallas, Green Bay, Seattle, Tampa Bay, the New York Giants and Arizona (yes, Arizona). The Lions will fade in the face of a brutal schedule and the Cardinals will be an unlikely surging team late this season thanks to a favorable schedule.
Leftwich or Harrington?, 10:28 a.m.
Here's a blog entry that will interest you. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is speculating that the Falcons may start Byron Leftwich this week, if he's healthy. Get the scoop in this blog entry at Tampabay.com. We'll be talking to Falcons coach Bobby Petrino later today.
Bucs don't feel sorry for themselves, 10:26 a.m.