By Matthew Asher
After a 33-10 drubbing by the NFC leading Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta travels to Raymond James Stadium to take on one of the two teams they’ve managed to beat this season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – who managed to squeak out their first win of the season against the Miami Dolphins Monday night.
On offense, Tampa Bay is simply horrible, with all four major statistics – points, total yards, passing and rushing yards – all ranking in the bottom half of the league. Of course, there’s only one statistic that matters at the end of the game: scoring. Tampa’s 15.5 points per game heading into their Monday night matchup is the second-worst in the league. The total yards gained by the Bucs are just as bad as their points scored. Getting just 304.2 yards each game ranks them second-to-last again.
Pirates should stick to the water, not the sky.
Tampa’s passing attack is one of the worst in the league as well. The 196.8 passing yards each game is the fifth worst average. Part of this has to due with the trading of Josh Freeman to Minnesota. Since taking over for the Bucs as the signal caller, Mike Glennon has completed about 60 percent of his pass attempts for 1,165 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions with a quarterback rating of 83.1.
Only three Bucs have more than 20 receptions and have gained more than 200 receiving yards. Vincent Jackson not only leads the Bucs in every good receiving statistic, but he’s almost done more than twice the amount of damage than the two other Bucs have done combined. Jackson has 43 catches, 634 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Timothy Wright and Mike Williams have combined for 46 receptions, 475 yards and four touchdowns as well.
None if By Land
The rushing attack of Tampa Bay is the lone bright spot, but it still ranks in the bottom half of the league with 107.5 yards a game. Doug “Muscle Hamster” Martin hasn’t played since the previous game against Atlanta in Week 7, but still leads the team with 127 rushes for 456 yards and one rushing touchdown. Mike James has taken over with Martin out and has run the ball 55 times for 254 yards but no touchdowns.
Defense is the Key
While Tampa’s defense is still in the lower half of the league in three of the four main stats, their numbers are vastly better than their offensive ones. The Bucs 23.8 points and 240.5 passing yards surrendered each game rank them 17th in the league. The 348 total yards of offense given up is in the top half of the league at 16 and the 107.5 rushing yards is the 13th least in the league.
It’s always tough to beat the same team twice in the same season, but with Atlanta essentially playing for pride in their final seven games of the season, it’s gut check time. This game should answer the question if Atlanta is trying to tank for a top five draft pick or if they are going to do their hardest to try and rise up to finish the season at .500 or better.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 pm EST.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.