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Each Tuesday morning, Whatifsports.com's NFL simulation engine will provide you with predictions, box scores and statistics for every NFL game that week. The NFL simulation engine generates detailed information including the home team's chances of winning (Home Win %), average score and comprehensive box score link. If you want to share your new found NFL knowledge with friends and family, make sure to check out our NFL Widgets on the WhatIf To Go page or click on the social networking share bar located at the top and bottom of the article.
The statistical inputs to the thousands of NFL games simulated are based on rigorous analysis of each team's roster, depth chart and statistically based player ranking. Roster modifications have been made for injuries and suspensions and those players are not part of their team's game simulation.
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Check out our 2010 NFL Season-to-Date page to follow our accuracy week-to-week and find Locks and Upsets of the Week.
Game of the Week: Falcons at Bucs
Few would have expected "Falcons versus Buccaneers" as a marquee matchup at this juncture in the season. Yet playoff implications and aspirations will be on the line when the 9-2 Falcons travel to Raymond James Stadium on Sunday to battle the 7-4 Buccaneers.
To be fair, even Nostradamus couldn't have prognosticated Tampa Bay's 2010 success. The Buccaneers were coming off a 3-13 campaign in 2009, one which illustrated little promise or hope for the future of the franchise. Rookie head coach Raheem Morris appeared overmatched and at times inept, first round draft pick Josh Freeman had an abysmal QB rating of 59.9, free agent acquisition Derrick Ward turned into a bust, and 2008 breakout star Antonio Bryant saw his statistics plummet thanks to injuries.
However, these observations from the past seem to contradict the proceedings of the present. Morris, whose coaching specialty lies in the secondary, has the Tampa Bay defense allowing just 205.9 yards through the air and stifling opposing signal callers to a QB rating of 76.7. Freeman has transformed into one of the league's most efficient quarterbacks, throwing 15 touchdowns compared to five interceptions. Rookies LeGarrette Blount and Mike Williams have been instrumental in the rejuvenation, as Blount has emerged as a bruising force in the backfield while Williams continues to build an affinity with Freeman in the passing game.
Not to say the Buccaneers are without chinks in the proverbial armor. Tampa Bay's seven wins have come against opponents with a collective 19-47 (.288%) mark. Worse, the Bucs are currently 0-4 against teams with a winning record and have been outscored 113 to 50 in those four contests. Tampa's rush defense is surrendering 132.5 yards on the ground, second-worst in the NFC. And while Freeman has avoided turnovers, the offense has been relatively stagnant, averaging 19.9 points and 319.4 yards per contest.
Atlanta cannot commiserate with Tampa's woes as the Falcons have been on the opposite side of the offensive spectrum. Matt Ryan has Atlanta lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 25.1 points per game in 2010. "Matty Ice" has mirrored Freeman's penchant of protecting the ball, throwing just five picks on the year. Ryan's vigilant mindset (as well as the ball-hawking tenacity of the Atlanta defense) has correlated into a plus-11 turnover margin for the Falcons, second best in the NFL. On the year, the Boston College product has tossed for 2,715 yards and 19 touchdowns, by far the most productive season in his young NFL career.
Ryan isn't the only Falcon enjoying success on the offensive side of the ball. Roddy White has been the league's premier receiver with 84 receptions, 1,066 yards and seven touchdowns. Running back Michael Turner has returned to his 2008 form, accumulating 974 yards and seven scores. And although he's starting to show signs of decline, tight end Tony Gonzalez has been Ryan's security blanket, garnering 51 balls for 499 yards.
Defensively, Atlanta has been unwavering against the run, conceding a mere 93.7 yards on the ground this season. Unfortunately, this steadfast front has not carried over in the secondary, as opponents are racking up 252.9 yards through the air on Atlanta. The Falcons are led by perennial Pro-Bowler John Abraham, who is continuing to disrupt opposing backfields and leads the team with nine sacks.
So who wins this week's battle between NFC South foes? According to the WhatIfSports.com NFL simulation engine, the Falcons come out on top 51.7% of the time with an average score of 24-23. Check out the rest of this week's predictions below:
Joel Beall is a Content Writer for Whatifsports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.