Injury update, 4:18 p.m.
Here is the injury report for Thursday.
BUCCANEERS: Did not practice — FB B.J. Askew (ankle), RB Michael Pittman (ankle); Limited in practice — WR Joey Galloway (toe), QB Jeff Garcia (back), WR Ike Hilliard (knee), LB Ryan Nece (groin); Full participation in practice — DE Kevin Carter (shoulder), DE Greg Spires (calf)
TEXANS: Did not practice — LB Danny Clark (groin), QB Matt Schaub (shoulder); Limited in practice — TE Mark Bruener (shoulder), RB Ron Dayne (ankle), RB Ahman Green (knee), P Matt Turk (back); Full participation in practice — G Chester Pitts (knee), T Ephraim Salaam (hand).
Pittman may just be getting a day off. The Galloway toe issue is new and Gruden didn't comment. Dayne was upgraded to limited. Green is still limited, but there's no way to know for sure if he'll play on Sunday. The Texans may still put him on IR.
Garcia's taking more reps, 3:20 p.m.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden got further encouragement on the progress of starting quarterback Jeff Garcia.
Gruden didn't declare him the starter, and probably won't publicly. But he admitted that Garcia took more reps in practice on Thursday.
"He took a lot more snaps today and we'll see how he feels tomorrow," Gruden said.
Thursday was a key day for Garcia. Gruden said on Wednesday that he wanted to see how the quarterback bounced back from a day of limited work. Gruden seemed comfortable with what he saw.
"I think so," Gruden said. "He's certainly getting better."
Objectively, this still leaves the quarterback for Sunday up in the air. Subjectively, you can read into his comments that in all likelihood Garcia will start on Sunday. He's already practice twice as many days as he did last week and looks like he's walking pain-free as he leaves the field. He'll probably remain limited for the rest of the week on the practice report, but I suspect Garcia will be under center for the first snap against the Texans.
Get updated on the running backs, 3:18 p.m.
We have two premium pieces you might be interested in. First, read our Q&A with Bucs head coach Jon Gruden on the status of injured running back Carnell Williams. They're his first public comments in about two months on the running back, and the third-year pro is back at One Buc Place. You can read the Q&A by clicking here.
Then, check on the status of fullback B.J. Askew, as his left ankle was in a hard cast before Thursday's practice. Will he play on Sunday? Get Askew's opinion by clicking here.
The road to the playoffs goes through …, 10:26 a.m.
That's what I said when a colleague made that reference yesterday. But after looking at Atlanta's remaining schedule, he had a point.
The Falcons host New Orleans (5-7) on Monday night, a team desperately clinging to hopes of a Wild Card playoff berth.
Then the Falcons travel to Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers (8-4), by then, should have the NFC South wrapped up. You know the Falcons would love to spoil the Bucs' hopes of reaching for a No. 3 playoff seed by upsetting them at Raymond James, right?
The Falcons follow that with a Dec. 23 trip to Arizona. The Cardinals (5-7) might still be in this Wild Card race, too, if they can win their next two games (at Seattle, at New Orleans), which will be tough for the Cards.
Finally, if the Falcons haven't destroyed the Bucs' hopes of a No. 3 playoff seed, then they could help their cause. They host Seattle (8-4) in the season finale. The Bucs would need to finish one game ahead of the Seahawks — granted Seattle wins its division too — to claim the No. 3 playoff seed.
That's an interesting schedule for the Falcons, one that could help — or hurt — the Buccaneers if things fall the right way.
Football satire, 10:24 a.m.
You have to take this link for what it is — The Onion being the The Onion. Online's best satirists gives us a take on global warming from a football perspective. Give it a read at Theonion.com.
Catching up with Coyer, 10:18 a.m.
I heaped a lot of praise on Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin last week, but I would be remiss if I didn't throw some praise the way of his assistants, all of which are new this season — secondary coach Raheem Morris, linebackers coach Gus Bradley (he worked under Joe Barry last year) and defensive line coach Larry Coyer. Hiring the no-nonsense, pipe-smoking Coyer was a stroke of luck for the Bucs, who needed a stronger line coach after last year's anemic pass rush production (just 25 sacks). They found a well-respected line coach with a coordinator's expertise (his last job was as Mike Shanahan's defensive coordinator in Denver). Find out more in this entry at TBO.com.
Garcia update, 10:15 a.m.
If you read the Buccaneers blog yesterday, then you received up-to-the minute updates on the Jeff Garcia injury situation. For a review, here's a nice article that encompassed everything, courtesy of Tampabay.com.
I would love to say we'll find out today what Garcia's status is for Sunday, since head coach Jon Gruden wanted to see how Garcia's back reacted to Wednesday's workout. But I'd put down even odds that Gruden will soft-pedal that update, as he does most weeks. Judging from what I'm seeing and hearing, though, Garcia is the guy on Sunday, barring a major setback.