- Can the Bucs shut down Michael Turner?- Despite a great showing against the Arizona Cardinals’ backs last week(sans LaRod Stephens-Howling touchdown), the Bucs have struggled mightily against talented running backs. The Atlanta Falcons’ Michael Turner represents one of the most talented runners the Bucs have faced this season. Turner has rushed for 587 yards and three touchdowns in 2010. For the Bucs to stop them, they are going to have to get pressure from their defensive line. Something they haven’t done well this season. It will also come down to this match-up.
- Aqib Talib vs. Roddy White- As we discussed in last week’s preview, Talib was able to manage the match-up versus Larry Fitzgerald. He even excelled with two interceptions (see NFC Defensive Player of the week.) Roddy White will be a drop off from Fitzgerald, but not much of one. White has had a tremendous season thus far with 54 catches for 747 yards and five touchdowns. And apparently, he doesn’t drop the ball anymore. Talib can compete, but this will be a challenging match-up. In addition, the Bucs linebackers and secondary have to manage the damage that Tony Gonzales can create in the middle of the field. Another big game for Geno Hayes is needed. This is a marquee match-up, but it’s not the only one.
- Donald Penn vs. John Abraham- Now, most would assume that this is a one-sided match-up in favor of Abraham. However, in two games last season Abraham was not able to penetrate the Penn wall. Now the good folks in Atlanta will tell you that last season was an off one for Abraham and that he has his mojo back in 2010. The stats (the fodder of losers, according to coach Raheem Morris) would speak to that. Abraham has six sacks the season. Penn told Anwar S. Richardson of the Tampa Tribune that he has given up four sacks this season. The winner of this match-up could be the winner in this game. In 2008, a late Abraham sack was critical in the Falcons’ victory.
- Who will be motivated more by Coach Morris’ comments?- Roddy White mockingly commented that they had to prepare for the “NFC’s best team.” Mike Peterson called it a “bold statement.” Obviously, the Falcons are more talented than the Bucs, but if you’re a Falcon fan, this is room for pause. This is a huge divisional battle, if the Falcons need some one’s comments to get them up for it, than they are in trouble. You can say what you want about the Bucs but I assure you that they aren’t looking for outside motivation to get up for this game. I think the Falcons’ concern about Morris’ comments over their preparation for a surging Bucs offense, plays into the Bucs’ hands.