From the outside it may appear like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers do not have anything to play for Sunday as they face their NFC South rivals the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome. With the Buccaneers playoff hopes dashed weeks ago and the Falcons, who may not be able to improve their playoff seeding, this is a meaningless game right? Don’t tell that to Raheem Morris or Atlanta head coach Mike Smith.
For the Buccaneers, it’s about pride and about just being able to end the season on a positive note. It is about still trying hard to get a win in a division rival game, even if a win may not mean that much as far as the overall picture is concerned.
Even thought head coach Morris is unsure of whether he will be facing Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (who is 5-1 in his past 6 starts versus Tampa Bay) or a backup, Morris still plans to game plan as if he will be facing the Falcons starters.
“No, we go out there and try to win the football game,” Morris said. “[It] doesn’t matter. They are going to execute Coach Mularkey’s offense. They are going to execute (Falcons defensive coordinator Brian) VanGorder’s defense. You got to go out there and just players got to play. Those things are all gray matter to us. Like I talked about it before we are kind of in off season mode a little bit, fundamental periods. We have been in getting better modes and right now we are in the mode of going out there and playing and got to go out there and play fast.”
Despite already being in the playoffs, the Falcons head coach Mike Smith says he is still going to plan for this Tampa Bay team as if it were any other week. According to Smith, it is just another game against a competitive division opponent. The last time these two teams played back in September the Buccaneers came out on top 16-13.
“Our preparation week is going to be no different than any other week,” Smith said. “We know that there are some things that are set in concrete in terms of that we will be playing the following week. We don’t know who or where or when. We just got to go through our normal preparation this week and prepare to beat Tampa Bay and that’s our entire focus this week. We are not thinking about the second season. Our concerns are playing well this week against a team that is a division opponent that usually when we play are very competitive football games. We anticipate that will be the case again this week.”
According to what Mike Smith has seen on tape, this Buccaneer team looks like the same team they played in week three.
“I haven’t had a chance during the season [with] the way the schedule worked out [because] there were not a lot of crossover games,” Smith said. “The only thing that I can speak to is that when we played them in Week 3, they beat us and they did a very good job holding us to thirteen points. Looking at the tape in our preparation for this week, it still looks like the same team to me. In this league sometimes things don’t go your way and the dynamics change and all that, but we are anticipating seeing the team that we saw in Week 3. I am sure that they are preparing just like we are to have a very competitive game. NFC South, in my mind, for the most part when two teams get together it is a hard fought game and it is usually very close.”