Here are 5 things to mull over before today’s 1 p.m. kickoff between the Falcons (6-5) and the Buccaneers (5-6) at Raymond James Stadium.
1. GERALD MCCOY UPDATE: Tampa Bay’s All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had left hand surgery and did not practice on Thursday. He leads the Bucs with seven sacks. McCoy hopes to play according to Roy Cummings on the Tampa Tribune. He’s officially listed as doubtful. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who has missed the last nigh games with a shoulder injury, may play.
2. DEVIN HESTER UPDATE: Falcons returner Devin Hester was activated on Friday and is expected to play. Wide receiver Leonard Hankerson was released to make room for Hester.
3. THE RETURN OF FREEMAN: Running back Devonta Freeman is set to make his return. He missed last week’s game while recovering from a concussion he suffered against the Colts. Freeman has rushed for 764 yards and nine touchdowns as well as gaining 420 yards receiving with two touchdowns. “Devonta is a huge part not only of our offense, but of our team,” Ryan said. “The addition of Devonta and his versatility, the ability to use him in all facets of the game I think is huge for us.”
4. PLAYOFF PICTURE: Basically, the playoffs start now for the Falcons. They can’t afford to drop to 6-6 and be tied with the Buccaneers, who would then hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over them. With the Packers winning on the Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Marry to move to 8-4, there’s basically one open spot, which Seattle holds now at 6-5. The Seahawks play at Minnesota (8-3) at 1 p.m. Other games to watch include the New York Jets at the New York Giants (5-6) at 1 p.m., San Francisco at Chicago (5-6) at 1 p.m. and Dallas at Washington (5-6) at 8:30 p.m. Monday night. The Falcons have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Giants and Washington.
5. SERIES RECORD: This will be the 45th regular season meeting between the Falcons and the Buccaneers. The series is tied, 22-22. The Bucs defeated the Falcons 23-20 in overtime on Nov. 1 at the Georgia Dome. They are going for their first sweep of the Falcons since 2010.
FALCONS GAMEDAY COVERAGE
MINNESOTA GAME COVERAGE — Vikings 20, Falcons 10
FROM THE FIRST MEETING — TAMPA BAY GAME COVERAGE — Bucs 23, Falcons 20 in OT