By Max Luckan
In the season finale, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will head up to Atlanta to face the Atlanta Falcons, who have been one of the most consistent teams in the NFL this season. The Bucs currently sit with a record of 6-9, but they’ve lost five games in a row and have played themselves out of the playoffs. The Falcons, at 13-2, have clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and will look to finish the regular season on a high note before the playoffs begin. While Atlanta plans on playing to win, this game could be a good opportunity to rest some of the starters that have been banged up.
Tampa Bay is undoubtedly looking to pull off an upset against the Falcons in order to lift the mood, which has been dampened by five straight losses, some of them being very close losses. The Bucs have cornerback Eric Wright, who has missed the last five games because of an injury and suspension, back with the team, but head coach Greg Schiano isn’t sure if he will play yet.
“(I’m) not sure if he’ll play or not,” Schiano said Friday. “He’ll be with us and I’ll have to make that decision.” However, a person with knowledge of the situation has speculated that Wright isn’t expected to play, though that hasn’t been set in stone yet, and could change at any time. Before his suspension, Wright had been dealing with an Achilles injury, but that doesn’t appear to be an issue any longer.
The Bucs haven’t ruled anyone out yet for Sunday’s game, but guard Roger Allen is listed as doubtful with a groin injury. It’s unclear when Allen sustained the injury, but he did not practice on Thursday or Friday, so it’s unlikely that Allen plays against the Falcons.
Meanwhile, cornerback E.J. Biggers, defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, tight end Nate Byham, tight end Dallas Clark, cornerback LeQuan Lewis, tackle Donald Penn, and center Jeremy Zuttah are all listed as probable for the Bucs.
The Falcons, however, have already ruled out safety William Moore, who has been dealing with a nagging hamstring injury for a while now. Veteran safety Chris Hope is expected to start in Moore’s place. They’ve also ruled out cornerback Christopher Owens due to a hamstring injury, and he’ll likely be replaced by third-year corner Dominique Franks. Owens usually plays behind cornerback Dunta Robinson.
With a seemingly depleted secondary, the Falcons appear to be more vulnerable in the passing game, but that isn’t exactly the case. The secondary, along with the rest of the defense, was able to hold the pass-happy Detroit Lions to just 18 points last week. Still, the Bucs should be able to throw the ball with a little more freedom than usual.
Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, defensive end Cliff Matthews, defensive tackle Corey Peters, and wide receiver Roddy White are all listed as questionable for the Falcons. White, a key part of the Falcons’ offense, did not practice on Wednesday and Thursday, and it would be wise for the Falcons to rest him against the Bucs. He’s been dealing with a knee injury, but has played through it so far. The Falcons need him to be fresh for the playoffs.
The injuries on the defensive line should benefit the Bucs’ running game and Doug Martin. The rushing attack has struggled in recent weeks and a weaker defensive line should help Martin greatly.
Full Injury Report
- CB E.J. Biggers (hip)
- DE Da’Quan Bowers (hamstring)
- TE Nate Byham (illness)
- TE Dallas Clark (illness)
- CB LeQuan Lewis (knee)
- T Donald Penn (not injury related)
- C Jeremy Zuttah (ankle)
- G Roger Allen (groin)
- DT Jonathan Babineaux (ribs)
- DE Cliff Matthews (hamstring)
- DT Corey Peters (knee)
- WR Roddy White (knee)
- S William Moore (hamstring)
- CB Christopher Owens (hamstring)
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Max Luckan lives in Tampa, FL and is a sports writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL. Luckan has been covering the Buccaneers for a few years now. You can find more of his work at Examiner.com.