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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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The Huddle
~ 2008 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday Late

Prediction: ATL 17, TB 24

Update: Jason Elam is listed as questionable from a hip pointer but the Falcons have only limited him in practice and barring any setbacks he is expected to kick. Elam kicked a 50-yarder with the injury last week.

Jeff Garcia has missed or been limited in practice because if his sprained ankle and Brian Griese will be starting this week. He has worked with the first team all week and is ready to play.

The Falcons sport that winning record so far and were the talk of the league last week. The Falcons looked like they were playoff bound rolling over the visiting Lions but this week offers up a rather big reality check. The Falcons were pulverized by the Bucs last year, losing 7-31 and 3-37. This year's Falcons are improved but are due to land back on earth this week. Michael Turner owners just want to savor the feeling as long as they can.

Atlanta Falcons (1-0)
Homefield: Georgia Dome
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 DET 34-21 +3 41
2 @TB - +8 38.5
3 KC - - -
4 @CAR - - -
5 @GB - - -
6 CHI - - -
7 BYE - - -
8 @PHI - - -
9 @OAK - - -
10 NO - - -
11 DEN - - -
12 CAR - - -
13 @SD - - -
14 @NO - - -
15 TB - - -
16 @MIN - - -
17 STL - - -
ATL vs TB Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Ryan 10   190,1
RB Michael Turner 80,1 10  
RB Jerious Norwood 20 30  
TE Ben Hartsock   20  
WR Michael Jenkins   30  
WR Roddy White   70,1  
WR Harry Douglas   20  
PK Jason Elam 1 FG 2 XP  
Pregame Notes: While the Lions losing on the road is hardly a surprise, the fact that the Falcons scored 21 points in the first quarter alone gave a shot of joy to a team that needed it. The problem from that bombing of the Lions is that it happened so fast and so easily, that it is hard to gauge just how good the offense actually is. Everything worked last week and when the running back is unstoppable, it tends to make the rest of the offense look really, really good. Playing in Tampa Bay will be a big test - and maybe their first real test.

Quarterback: Matt Ryan couldn't have asked for a nicer introduction to the NFL than scoring a 62-yard touchdown on his very first pass. Ryan ended just 9 of 13 for 161 yards and the one score because the Falcons rushed for 320 yards. But on the plus side, Ryan looked as good as could be hoped. He'll just have to show up this week against an actual NFL secondary.

In two meetings with the Buccaneers last year, the Falcons never had more than 106 passing yards and never scored.

Running Backs: Wow. Michael Turner wasted no time setting the all-time franchise rushing record with his 220 yard effort on Sunday. He only needed 22 carries and scored twice before giving way to Jerious Norwood who finished out the spankfest with 93 yards on 14 carries with one score. Like Ryan, it is hard to gauge how good this rushing attack actually is. Turner was the primary but had Norwood showing up for carries by the third series of the game. Of course by then, Turner had already ran in his 66-yard touchdown.

Norwood ran for 73 yards on nine carries in Tampa Bay but otherwise no Falcon runner had more than 32 rushing yards in either meeting. And Norwood broke one long run to have his decent game.

Wide Receivers: Laurent Robinson has faded from favor with the new coaching staff and Michael Jenkins put a lock on split end duty for at least a while after reeling in that 62-yard touchdown pass. It was the only catch he made all day but the Falcons did not need to pass and even Roddy White only had two catches for 54 yards. The rookie Harry Douglas ran the slot but had only one rushing play and no passes thrown his way. Ryan did connect well with the wideouts last week but the Lions made it rather easy to do.

Roddy White never had more than four catches for 28 yards against the Buccaneers last year.

Tight Ends: The new offense did throw two passes to tight ends last week but Ben Hartsock and Justin Peelle combined for only 30 yards. Too early to tell if the offense will continue to use the position but a Mike Mularkey offense rarely does much with them.

Match Against the Defense: The Buccaneers gave up 343 passing yards last week but that was on the road in New Orleans and the visiting Falcons will be a much different situation. Turner goes against a defense that gave up 103 rushing yards last week but much of that stemmed from the success of the passing attack. Few teams had more than 70 rushing yards in Tampa Bay last year and the Falcons are less than average with their new players and offense being installed. No doubt that Turner sees more attention after last week so expect a decent game but nothing big and a chance for one rushing score but nothing more than that.

Ryan wasn't tested much last week but he'll need to be a much bigger factor this week if the Falcons are to compete. This is the same secondary that help Colston to just 26 yards last week. Roddy White will need to figure in more this week and has the better matchup over Jenkins. It is still more speculation than anything how this offense will perform but they got a shot of confidence last week and the rushing game appears solid at worst.

Gaining Fantasy Points ATL 27 1 17 22 4 14
Preventing Fantasy Points TB 31 25 30 18 17 15

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)
Homefield: Raymond James Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @NO 20-24 +3.5


2 ATL - -8 38.5
3 @CHI - - -
4 GB - - -
5 @DEN - - -
6 CAR - - -
7 SEA - - -
8 @DAL - - -
9 @KC - - -
10 BYE - - -
11 MIN - - -
12 @DET - - -
13 NO - - -
14 @CAR - - -
15 @ATL - - -
16 SD - - -
17 OAK - - -
TBB vs ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Jeff Garcia 200, 2
QB Brian Griese     180, 2
RB Earnest Graham 90,1 10  
RB Warrick Dunn 60 20  
TE Alex Smith   30,1  
WR Joey Galloway   60,1  
WR Ike Hilliard   20  
WR Antonio Bryant   40  
PK Matt Bryant 1 FG 3 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Buccaneers fell just short against the Saints and a road game with a rusty quarterback went almost well enough to win. Back at home this week should prove a much easier time since the Bucs defense always plays best in Tampa Bay. After the showing that the Falcons had last week, this game may not be quite the cakewalk of recent years but it will help focus the Bucs who know they cannot think of mailing it in.

Quarterback: It was apparent that Jeff Garcia was slightly rusty last week when he only completed 24 of 41 for 221 yards in New Orleans. He threw one interception and just one touchdown in what could be his easiest matchup this year - except for this week. The rushing game worked very well but falling behind last week meant that Garcia was forced to throw. That same rushing game should be enough this week and maintain the lower passing numbers for Garcia again this week.

Garcia passed for 159 yards and two scores in Atlanta last year and later only had 109 yards and one score in the meeting at Tampa Bay.

Running Backs: The Buccaneers got a nice effort from the running game last week but only had 19 carries thanks to the Saints taking a lead. Earnest Graham gained 91 yards on ten carries which included a 46-yard run and he tacked on 27 more yards on three receptions. But Warrick Dunn also had nine carries and gained 54 yards. This remains a committee backfield and Graham owners will be disappointed since he will not be the heavy-duty full load back as he was in 2007 when injuries stripped the depth charts. The two runners offer a complementary style that should be much more apparent this week.

Graham rushed for 102 yards and one score on 17 carries in Atlanta last season. He later only gained 79 yards on 22 rushes with one score when they came to Tampa Bay. He added five catches for 40 yards in that game.

Wide Receivers: Michael Clayton was inactive last week and that is a very bad sign for a healthy player who is being phased out more each year. Antonio Bryant only managed to catch three of the eight passes thrown to him last week but gained 43 yards. Ike Hilliard (6-45, 1 TD) was actually the most productive wideout despite being #3 on the depth chart. Joey Galloway only caught six of the 13 passes thrown his way on Sunday and gained only 56 yards instead of 100+ as he did in every meeting last year. The addition of Bryant appears to be a better choice that could pay dividends later on but this team is never going to be a passing team and Galloway will remain the primary target for Garcia.

Galloway had two receptions for 63 yards and one score in Atlanta last season and later only managed one catch for seven yards in the home game.

Tight Ends: Alex Smith only had two catches for 19 yards in New Orleans. Tight ends accounted for a touchdown in each of the meetings with the Falcons last season. Alex Smith (3-51) scored in the away game while Anthony Becht (2-10) scored in the home game.

Match Against the Defense: The Atlanta rushing defense was solid last week but that was at home against the Lions. The Bucs should have more success but they are splitting carries between Dunn and Graham which waters down their potential. If the Bucs can get a decent lead, chances are better that Graham will just finish out the game but expecting more than a moderately good game here with a score for Graham is hard to rely on.

Garcia is not going to throw any more than necessary and since both teams are going to want to establish the run, the passing numbers will be lower this week. Expect Galloway to get back on track this week and score. The Bucs could see nice passing stats if the Falcons can make a game of this but that is hard to rely on.

Gaining Fantasy Points TB 19 14 13 26 10 7
Preventing Fantasy Points ATL 27 12 28 24 6 6

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