The Falcons got a pivotal 17-6 victory in Week 14 of last season to keep their playoff hopes alive at 7-6. As it turned out, Atlanta lost three straight to end the season.
The last two contests have gone to Atlanta, cutting Tampa Bay's overall series lead to 15-12.
Joey Harrington completed a 30-yard touchdown pass to Alge Crumpler in the final minute to give the Falcons a 20-13 win over the Panthers. The victory kept Atlanta in the NFC South mix. Despite having a bye, the Buccaneers benefited. New Orleans and Carolina's losses kept them alone atop the NFC South.
Very quietly, the Falcons have fought their way back into contention. With two straight wins, Altanta has put itself into position to move within a game of the first place Bucs with a win. A win would allow Tampa Bay to take command of the division as the only NFC South team with a perfect division record.
Falcons FB Ovie Mughelli vs. Buccaneers MLB Barrett Ruud. After struggling through the first seven weeks of the season, the Falcons' running game has picked up steam in the past couple of games. Warrick Dunn has had more room to operate and has taken advantage of it with his two highest rushing yardage totals of the season. One of the players most responsible for Dunn's emergence is Mughelli. An offseason addition from Baltimore, Mughelli replaced the smaller Justin Griffith and was signed in large part to neutralize players such as Ruud. The third-year linebacker for Tampa Bay is having a career season and is third in the NFL with 79 tackles. His inspired play is largely the reason the Bucs have risen to sixth in total defense. If Ruud and his teammates are able to slip Mughelli's blocks, it could be a long day for Dunn and the Falcons' offense.