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THE PICK TO CLICK vs. ATLANTA PewterReport.com’s editorial staff offers its predictions as to which Tampa Bay player will star against the Atlanta Falcons in Sunday's home opener at Raymond James Stadium. Which Bucs are "picked to click" and have big games this week? Find out by reading the selections below in this Pewter Insider article.
CB RONDE BARBER – Pewter Report editor-in-chief Jim Flynn
Tampa Bay’s defense has something to prove after allowing New Orleans to produce over 400 yards of offense and three big-play touchdowns. Barber was a victim of one of those plays when he fell in coverage and allowed wide receiver Devery Henderson to haul in an 84-yard touchdown. Barber believes he would have intercepted Drew Brees’ pass had he been able to stay on his feet. Barber and Co. will face rookie quarterback Matt Ryan on Sunday. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has been known to make life difficult for rookie quarterbacks, which is one of the reasons why the Falcons will run the ball early and often behind playmakers Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood. But Ryan will have to occasionally throw the football, and when he does Barber will have to make him pay. Barber was a Falcon killer in 2007, returning a fumble 41 yards for a touchdown and intercepting a pass and returning it 29 yards for a score in Tampa Bay’s two wins over Atlanta. Look for Barber to come up big again on Sunday.
LB BARRETT RUUD – Pewter Report Bucs beat writer Charlie Campbell The Atlanta Falcons ran for over 300 yards against the Detroit Lions in the first game of the season. With a rookie at quarterback, the Falcons will again look to run on the Buccaneers. Ruud will be in a position to have a big game against Turner and Norwood. Don’t be shocked to see Ruud finish the game with a tackle total in the mid-teens. He also could force and recover some fumbles. Ruud started out the season hot last year in forcing turnovers, and he did that in the Bucs opener at New Orleans. His blitz and hit of quarterback Drew Brees led to the interception and defensive touchdown that got the Bucs on the board. After his success blitzing last week against New Orleans, it would not be surprising to see Ruud blitz the rookie in his first road game. With the Falcons’ emphasis on the running game and playing a rookie quarterback, this looks like a game that Ruud could dominate.
QB BRIAN GRIESE – Pewter Report publisher Scott Reynolds I am very tempted to pick running back Earnest Graham, who averaged 9.1 yards per carry last week in the season opener at New Orleans, rushing for 91 yards. I could see a scenario where Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, who wants to replace Jeff Garcia with Griese on a permanent basis, will want to limit Griese’s exposure to interceptions that would undermine Gruden’s decision to make a Week 2 quarterback switch – and put Tampa Bay’s chances of winning the game in jeopardy. That means that Graham could be called on to carry a significant load. But I can also see a scenario will Gruden will have Griese come out firing, much like Luke McCown did in his first start for the Bucs last year at New Orleans. I’m thinking Griese will be efficient, completing at least 67 percent of his passes – and yes, there will be plenty of checkdowns to Graham and Warrick Dunn – with a pair of scores on Sunday. Griese doesn’t want to give Gruden any reason to go back to Garcia and he should play inspired football at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday.
WEEK 1 RESULTS No Pick To Click victory awarded (Flynn-Galloway, Campbell-Bryant, Reynolds-Gilmore)