The Falcons will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Thursday night at 8:25 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
After an impressive come-from-behind victory over New Orleans in week one, the Falcons were trounced by the Cincinnati Bengals just four days ago. So in a short week, the Falcons must bounce back to get into the win column.
Here are a few things that need to happen for the Falcons to beat Tampa Bay.
1. Matt Ryan must have a good game - Uh, duh. Yeah, that's a given, right. Well, while his protection can be questioned from last Sunday, fact is Ryan did not play well. A lot of this season is on his shoulders, and if his line of scrimmage or his skill players are having an off day, Ryan still must battle through and lead this team. He may get a break if Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy is not 100% with a broken left hand, but expect the Bucs to come after Ryan and disrupt Atlanta's offense.
2. The Falcons must open up the offense - Okay, the protection must be better and Ryan needs to play well, but offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter's game plan must include a wide open offense. The Falcons went with short passing routes last week in Cincinnati, instead of throwing the ball down field more. Atlanta needs to challenge the Tampa Bay secondary. Roddy White is a concern with his hamstring issue, but the Falcons need to let White and Julio Jones get long and see if Ryan can hit them. The Falcons still lead the league in passing offense (328.5 YPG) and are second in total offense (438.5 YPG), so they can't afford to go backwards with the strength of the team.
3. The Falcons must stop the run - Atlanta has allowed 154.5 yards per game so far in two weeks, seventh-worst in the league. Tampa Bay has bowling ball Bobby Rainey ready to run against his home state team. Rainey, from Griffin, Georgia just south of Atlanta, ran for 163 yards last year in the Georgia Dome for his breakout game as a professional. He's got 156 yards so far this season in two games - 12 yards on four carries against the Panthers in week one and 144 yards on 22 carries last week against the Rams. Rainey has replaced Doug Martin as Tampa Bay's primary back, and the Atlanta line of scrimmage must contain Rainey.
4. Tampa Bay quarterback Josh McCown needs to be sacked - The Falcons are the only team in the NFL without a sack through the first two weeks. But they must disrupt McCown, who has three interceptions in his first two games as Tampa Bay's new starter. The Falcons must get a pass rush from someone, whether it's Kroy Biermann, Osi Umenyiora or anyone else that can step up. Atlanta's defense didn't pressure Andy Dalton much in Cincinnati and it allowed him to have a good day despite missing his top two receivers from last year and his starting tight end. So the Falcons know they must do better to get in McCown's face.
5. Atlanta needs to recover from the loss - One of the trademarks of Mike Smith's teams through six full seasons has been the Falcons' ability to bounce back from a setback the week before. So if this team is going to be a contender, it must shake off the dismal performance against the Bengals and remember how much talent is on the roster. The players felt good about themselves in training camp and especially after the win over New Orleans. But they were brought back down to Earth by the Bengals last week. Smith has always been great of rallying his troops when they were facing a tough stretch. Atlanta will go on the road to play the Vikings and then the Giants in the next two weeks, so this is a critical home game to get back above .500.
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