Falcons at Buccaneers -- Week 12 

Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla. (grass, outside)

When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (Fox)

Spread: Falcons by 1

Forecast: Sunny in the high 60s

Records: Falcons (Overall: 9-1, NFC South: 1-1); Buccaneers (Overall: 6-4, NFC South: 2-1)

Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Jan. 1, 2012: Falcons 45, Buccaneers 24; Sept. 25, 2011: Buccaneers 16, Falcons 13. Series record: Buccaneers lead 19-18 but Falcons have won six of the past seven.

What matters: Quarterback Matt Ryan’s memory. He needs to forget about last weekend’s five-interception debacle and get back to the precise passer that made him the early season favorite for MVP. Ryan had never thrown more than three interceptions in a game but to be fair, only two of the turnovers were directly his fault. Two interceptions were batted at the line of scrimmage and one more was the result of Roddy White’s bobbled pass on the first play of the game. 

Who matters: Julio Jones. He’s played parts of the last two games on a bum ankle and without him, the offense has hit a dry spell. The Falcons didn’t score a passing touchdown for just the second time this season last week -- but twice in the last three games -- and over-relied on White (13 targets vs. Arizona). After going through the walk-through portion of practice on Wednesday, Jones was limited in practice on Thursday. Should Jones be unable to play, White, Tony Gonzalez, and third-stringer Harry Douglas will be counted on to exploit the Bucs, who have the worst secondary in the league (312 ypg) but are better than any other team at stopping the run. In other words, their weakness fits right into the Falcons’ strength. However, the same can be said about the Falcons’ atrocious rush defense, as only four teams in the NFL have given up more rushes of at least 20 yards than the Falcons' 10.

Key Matchups: It all comes down to stopping Tampa Bay rookie RB Doug Martin, who sits at exactly 1,000 yards rushing for the season, the third-most in the NFL through 10 games. He’s also the team’s third-leading receiver with 27 catches. Martin’s efficiency is even more troubling than his total production. His 5.1 yards per carry is among the league leaders and the Falcons may still be missing LB Sean Weatherspoon, the team’s top tackler, on Sunday. Weatherspoon hasn’t played the past three games with an ankle injury and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has had to shuffle players out of their natural positions to accommodate for the loss. Should Weatherspoon not play, the burden falls to LBs Stephen Nicholas (60 tackles) and Akeem Dent (40 tackles). The Falcons' rush defense has allowed 130 yards per game, seventh-worst in the league. Against Arizona last weekend, two runs of 40 and 52 yards, respectively, accounted for the majority of the Cardinals’ 137 rushing yards.

“When you misfit [fail to cover your gap], it gets real ugly and then both of those plays we missed a tackle,” coach Mike Smith said. 

Injuries of note: Aside from Jones’ questionable status, Weatherspoon practiced on Wednesday but was held out on Thursday with an undisclosed illness. The secondary also is facing question marks after CB Asante Samuel left last weekend’s win with a shoulder injury. He didn’t practice on Thursday and if he can’t go, Robert McClain would slide over to the right defensive back spot and likely matchup against WR Vincent Jackson (42 catches, 863 yards). McClain played his most significant game of the season last weekend, when he made eight tackles and was at times, matched up in single coverage against Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald.  

Inside stuff: With only four healthy linebackers last weekend, DE Kroy Biermann would’ve filled in at LB if two more would’ve gotten injured.

“We’re asking him to rush the passer, we’re asking him to cover backs, we’re asking him to cover tight ends, we’re asking him to close the middle of the field. You just don’t know where he’s going to be,” Smith said on Monday.

Connections: Smith was the defensive coordinator in Jacksonville when Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan was the offensive assistant for the Jaguars in 2003.

Record watch: With 54 yards, Roddy White will achieve his sixth-consecutive 1,000 yard receiving season, a franchise record.

Stat you should know: The Falcons have given up third-down conversions on 37 percent of their attempts, but last week against the Cardinals, they were able to hold Arizona to just 2 of 16 on third downs.

Looking ahead: The Falcons host the Saints on Thursday. The Saints handed the Falcons their lone loss of the season.

Prediction: Falcons 31, Tampa Bay 30

For more Falcons coverage, follow Mike Singer @CBSFalcons.