Falcons S Thomas DeCoud/Charles Mitchell vs. Bucs TE Dallas Clark: DeCoud was left off the NFC Pro Bowl squad despite recording six interceptions, second to New York’s Stevie Brown among conference safeties. With the NFC’s top seed wrapped up for the Falcons, DeCoud figures to give way to Mitchell, a 2012 sixth-round draft pick. Clark, 33, no longer is a dominant pass catcher, but he can be effective, and quarterback Josh Freeman has targeted him a lot lately.
Falcons LT Sam Baker/Lamar Holmes vs. Bucs DE Michael Bennett: Baker is healthier than he’s been in a while, and that’s reflected in his play. Baker anchors the Falcons’ strong pass protection. Baker can become a free agent after the season, and the rookie Holmes, a third-round draft pick, could be his successor. Bennett has recorded nine sacks and three forced fumbles this season, both career highs.
Falcons CB Dunta Robinson vs. Bucs WR Vincent Jackson: There have been a handful of games this season when opposing quarterbacks have stayed away from Asante Samuel and targeted Robinson. Robinson is a physical defender who excels at smothering short routes. He gives up a lot of size to Jackson, who bolted San Diego to be a featured receiver in Tampa Bay and has posted career highs in receptions (69) and receiving yards (1,334).