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Thursday Night Football Preview: Will the Atlanta Falcons Rebound?

Two teams with serious identity issues face off in the Deep South. Which one wins?

Two weeks into this young season, the Atlanta Falcons have had a bit of trouble establishing their identity. Quarterback Matt Ryan sparkled in the season opener against New Orleans, throwing for a career-high 448 yards and 3 touchdowns and hitting nine different receivers on the day, but struggled to overcome the stifling Bengals defense in Week 2, completing just over half of his passes and throwing three picks.

The ground game has been solid and competent, but never a game-changer. And that defense...yikes. The Falcons rank 30th against the pass and 24th against the run according to our metrics. What should we make of a team that's sitting at 1-1 after a squeaker against a team that very well may be overrated and a drubbing by a team that's looking more and more like a real contender?

It might seem like a bit of a cop-out, but this may not be the week that question gets answered. Tonight, the Falcons host the sputtering Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who start the season 0-2 after uninspiring home losses to Carolina and St. Louis. The Bucs' offense is a bit of a mess, with the Josh McCown-led aerial attack ranking second-to-last in the NFL. Their once-vaunted defensive unit looks optimistically middle-of-the-pack (15th against the pass, 18th against the run)...until you remember that said defensive unit put up mediocre numbers against backups Derek Anderson and Austin Davis.

It seems like a slam-dunk for the Falcons. But what do the numbers say, and what can we expect from these two teams in terms of game plan?

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