Can Tampa Bay Buccaneers overtake Falcons in NFC South?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have found themselves 6-4 and with a win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 12, will have a shot at the NFC South crown. It has been a great season for the Falcons who sit 9-1 after another close victory over the Arizona Cardinals. The Buccaneers came back from being down 8 points to the Carolina Panthers, converting a two-point conversion and winning in overtime. You have to give Greg Schiano credit for what he has done in his first year as Head Coach. Coming over from Rutgers, Schiano continued the trend of college coaches making the jump to the NFL and much like his counterparts, has seen early success.
Pete Carrol and Jim Harbaugh both saw success in their first seasons as NFL Head Coaches, both also won playoff games in their first year as well. It may be too early to talk playoffs for Schiano but every win at this point of the season matters most. You most certainly do not want to look back and wonder what if. It seems long ago that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were a team who stopped playing for their last head coach, Raheem Morris and were lost. In one season, Schiano has made the Buccaneers a playoff contender and a far cry from what the Buccaneers were under Morris. Now Schaino has his team in position to do the impossible, beat the 9-1 Atlanta Falcons and give themselves a chance to fight for the NFC South crown at the end of the season.
The Falcons as of late have been playing some bad football, in the Cardinals game Matt Ryan threw five interceptions. They also allowed Arizona to lead early in the game but it was the defense that has been saving Matt Ryan and the offense. If not for the third down stop and forcing a Panthers punt, they may have suffered their first loss already. Now the Falcons get to play a Buccaneers team who is built similar to their team from 2008. The Falcons relied upon Michael Turner who they acquired in Free Agency to run the ball down their opponents’ throat, and Tampa is doing the same thing with Doug Martin, who many compare to Ray Rice. Atlanta is much more of a passing team but if Doug Martin is out there running around, Matt Ryan won’t have many opportunities to score.
Next Sunday will go a long way in determining the NFC South, and you may say that at 9-1 it would be impossible for the Buccaneers to catch the Falcons but both teams are going in opposite directions right now. Atlanta looks like a team who is just scraping by with close wins and is close to losing multiple games and possibly home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Tampa on the other hand looks like a team on the rise who is ready to step up and win big games. We know that so far in the post-season under Matt Ryan the Falcons have zero playoff wins, and have struggled to play well in big games.
Next week is a big game for Matt Ryan and the Falcons, the Buccaneers took a game from the Falcons last year and look to do the same thing again in 2012. Matt Ryan and the Falcons better be ready or Doug Martin and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may just run wild all over them and gain ground in the NFC South race.
Mike Presley is a NFL Writer for The Penalty Flag. He is a graduate of the Carolina School of Broadcasting and hosts a weekly NFL show on 89.3 The Storm on Thursdays from 4PM-6PM called “The Front Seven.” Mike writes for the racing website www.hardcoreracefans.com. Follow him on Twitter @mikepresley64.