Falcons (1-0) at Bucs (0-1)
Bet you didn't think the Falcons would come into this game ahead of the Bucs in the NFC South. Yes, it's early. But the Bucs can ill afford to drop to 0-2 overall and in their division, particularly not when every other team in the division won in Week 1. Rookie quarterback Matt Ryan makes his second start for Atlanta, and running back Michael Turner looks to be one of the offseason's biggest acquisitions, at least based on his stunning 220-yard, two-touchdown performance against Detroit Sunday.
Falcons: C Alex Stepanovich (back) missed practice; LB Coy Wire (ankle) participated.
Bucs: LB Derrick Brooks (hamstring), QB Jeff Garcia (ankle), G Davin Joseph (foot) did not practice Wednesday; Maurice Stovall (back) was limited.
KEEP IN MIND
The Falcons hope to make this a ground game, thereby keeping the pressure off Matt Ryan, who attempted just 13 passes against Detroit. The Falcons had 42 rushing attempts, netting 318 yards.
"Philosophically, we have always looked at it like we wanted to control the line of scrimmage and be able to run the football," first-year coach Mike Smith said. "If you're able to run the ball successfully, you basically can dictate to your opponent. … We felt we had a very good plan for Matt in his first game. We were very specific in how we wanted to start the first game."
DE John Abraham vs. LT Donald Penn
Abraham had 10 sacks in 2007, and he picked up where he left off with three sacks in the opener. The Bucs have shown themselves to be lacking when it comes to pass protecting against some of the tougher defensive linemen, and the Falcons have one of the best in Abraham. Penn has to show he can rebound from a long day against the Saints.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
"It's hard to really know how a guy is really going to be when he gets most of the carries. But the thing that was most impressive about Michael (Turner) when we were doing our due diligence during free agency is not only is he a good football player, but he's got great character. To sit behind LaDainian Tomlinson (with the Chargers) for four years and not say anything publicly while waiting on his chance, I think that says a lot about his character. We put a lot of stock in things outside the football field here."
— Mike Smith on Turner's game Sunday, his first since leaving the Chargers
Stephen F. Holder, Times staff writer