Week three of the 2014 NFL season gets going on Thursday night, as NFC South division rivals square off on Thursday Night Football. The 0-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers aim to earn their first win of the young season on the road, while the 1-1 Atlanta Falcons look to lean on their home field advantage to snub the Bucs and get above .500.
It should be a pretty interesting game, as Tampa Bay has largely struggled offensively to this point, but boasts a solid defense. On the flip-side, Atlanta put up 37 points in week one, but has had some real issues on the defensive side of the football. If all goes well, fans could easily be looking at a nice prime time shootout.
To gear up for this one, let’s take a look at the major story-lines entering this TNF contest:
Doug Martin and Roddy White’s Health
The Muscle Hamster (Martin) was terrible in week one (nine yards on nine carries) and sat out week two with a knee injury. In his absence, backup running back ripped up the Rams for 144 rushing yards. Needless to say, even a healthy Martin still begs for Rainey to remain involved, due to how impressively effective he was. Martin should make it back for this one, and he has a terrific matchup against a Falcons run defense that has been gashed in the first two weeks. Martin and Rainey should team up and could both have solid outings on the road tonight.
Roddy White is also a bit banged up, but he’s far less likely to miss Thursday night’s game than Martin is. White has been dealing with a tender hamstring, but reports suggest there is “no doubt” that he’s active for this one. He’s been solid through two weeks with 10 receptions and a touchdown, but it’s worth noting he was active for half of 2013 at less than 100% and wasn’t very effective. Falcons fans will hope that history doesn’t repeat itself tonight.
Will Josh McCown of Last Year Finally Show Up?
McCown was awesome as a spot starter for the Chicago Bears last year, but through two weeks that version of McCown really hasn’t shown up. He’s put four touchdowns on the scoreboard and Tampa Bay has lost two close contests, but he hasn’t been consistent in the least. He has a terrific matchup this week and if he wants to hold off second-year passer Mike Glennon, he may want to come out with a strong showing tonight.
Can the Falcons Play Some Defense?
We know Tampa Bay can play defense, as they’ve given up 20 points or less in both games this year. Atlanta gave up 24 last week and 34 in week one, though, and really hasn’t been able to consistently stop the run or pass. That’s good news for the visiting Buccaneers, but concerning news for Atlanta fans. Can they take advantage of a disappointing McCown or will they once again get worked on the defensive end? That could be the key to this game.
Pick: Falcons 24, Buccaneers 16