The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2) will take on the Atlanta Falcons (1-1) on Thursday night in the Georgia Dome. Here are several matchups between individual players and/or certain team units that could go a long way towards determining the game's final outcome:
RB Doug Martin and Bobby Rainey vs. LB Paul Worrilow
The Falcons have allowed 283 rush yards, 165 receiving yards and five touchdowns to opposing running backs so far this season. Whether Martin plays and the two backs split carries, or if Martin sits out and Rainey sees most of the work, the Bucs backfield may put up big numbers against an Atlanta front that has been fairly porous through two games. Falcons LB Worrilow has had a busy start to the season contending with opposing running backs, piling up an NFL-leading 29 tackles in the first two games.
Bucs Pass Rush vs. QB Matt Ryan
Ryan leads the league in passing yards, averaging 339.5 yards per game (ypg) so far. He had success against the Bucs last season, throwing for 527 yards, five TDs and two INTs. During the first two weeks of this season, the Buc defense had difficulty limiting the success of two backup quarterbacks (220 passing ypg, 2 TDs, 0 INTs), largely due to a lack of consistent pressure on the passer. With Adrian Clayborn on IR, Gerald McCoy a strong bet to sit out with a broken hand and Michael Johnson trying to return from an ankle sprain, linemen like Scott Solomon, Clinton McDonald and Da'Quan Bowers need to step up and keep Ryan uncomfortable as much as possible.
CB Alterraun Verner vs. WR Julio Jones
Five NFL receivers have 100 ypg this year. Among them is Julio Jones who has averaged 98.5 yards and 0.8 TDs in his four games played against the Buccaneers. He'll likely see a lot of Verner in this matchup. According to Pro Football Focus, Verner has allowed just five receptions for 52 yards in two games this season. He and the rest of the Bucs defense are looking for their first 2014 interception in this game.
CB Alterraun Verner has shut down opposing receivers so far but will face a tough test in Atlanta's Julio Jones
WR Vincent Jackson vs. Falcons Secondary
The Buccaneers will take on the Falcons on Thursday night in the Georgia Dome. Here are several matchups between individual players and certain team units that could go a long way towards determining the game's final outcome.
Last season, three of Jackson's seven touchdowns came against the Falcons, each one over a different DB. He had 20 catches and 303 yards in those two games alone. In his two seasons as a Buc, Jackson has never had three consecutive games with fewer than 60 receiving yards. Last season, before the second Atlanta matchup, Jackson had games of 11 and 28 yards, breaking that low yardage streak with a 165-yard, one-TD performance.
QB Josh McCown vs. DE Johnathan Babineaux
The Falcons have yet to tally their first sack of the season. Babineaux leads the pass rush attack, having five QB hurries and one hit, but the group was unable to corral Drew Brees or Andy Dalton, giving up the NFL's second-most passing yards (317.5 ypg). McCown's trust appears to be growing, with some great throws to Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans in the end of Week Two. Trusting his receivers and having time in the pocket, McCown could have a big day against a team that has allowed four receptions of 40 yards.
S Dashon Goldson vs. RB Jacquizz Rodgers
Goldson leads the Buccaneers and is tied for third in the NFL in tackles so far this season with 20. While plugging holes in the run game, he will also likely contend with Jacquizz Rodgers in coverage. Rodgers has just 11 carries and one reception for 58 total yards this year, but he has shown up big against the Bucs in the past, most notably in his eight-catch, two-touchdown game in the Georgia Dome in 2013.