The Week 17 match-up between the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers carries no playoff implications for either team.
Atlanta (13-2) is locked in as the number one seed in the NFC, and Tampa Bay (6-9) has already been eliminated from playoff contention.
Despite having nothing to gain, the Falcons will start the starters and play to win. It’s a wise idea; resting the starters would mean they wouldn’t play football for three weeks, and they’d undoubtedly be rusty when the playoffs came around.
At one point in the season, the Bucs looked to be playoff bound. They were 6-4 and playing well, but they’ve lost five straight since. In the last two games, quarterback Josh Freeman has thrown just one touchdown to eight interceptions. For the season, he’s completing less than 55 percent of his passes, and he has 26 touchdowns to 16 interceptions.
The Falcons won 24-23 in the first match-up between the two teams, so another win for Atlanta would give them the sweep.
Similar to this season, the two teams faced off in the Georgia Dome last year for the final game of the season. Atlanta jumped out to a 42-7 lead by halftime, and as a result, Matt Ryan and most of the starters didn’t play in the second half.
Since neither team stands to gain much, a win could serve as a momentum builder.
The best case scenario for the Falcons is to have the offense come out firing on all cylinders like they have for the past two games. Like last year, they can build up a big lead quickly and have the starters rest for the fourth quarter to prevent any injuries to key players.
If Atlanta wins, they will have a perfect 8-0 record at home; the last time the Falcons were undefeated at home was in 1998 – the year they went to the Super Bowl.
Another tidbit to point out: a win will give Atlanta 14 on the season. What happened the last (only) time the Falcons posted a 14-2 record?
Rookie running back Doug Martin was contained a bit last time the two teams met. He did score twice, but was held to just 50 rushing yards.
Atlanta also needs to figure out a way to limit Vincent Jackson; the wide receiver is averaging 19.3 yards per catch.
At the end of the day, the Falcons are just a better team than the Bucs. They’re also at home, where Ryan has an absurd 33-4 record, and thus, I think they’ll get the win.
Points Scored: 26.8 (5th)
Total Offense: 375.2 (7th)
Passing Offense: 286.4 (5th)
Rushing Offense: 88.8 (28th)
Points Allowed: 18.5 (4th)
Total Defense: 365.5 (23rd)
Passing Defense: 243.7 (23rd)
Rushing Defense: 121.8 (20th)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Points Scored: 24.5 (13th)
Total Offense: 363.6 (10th)
Passing Offense: 250.7 (9th)
Rushing Offense: 112.9 (16th)
Points Allowed: 25.1 (24th)
Total Defense: 386.7 (29th)
Passing Defense: 303.0 (32nd)
Rushing Defense: 83.7 (1st)