Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 9:
Matchup of the week. People with the Falcons will tell you Roddy White has been the NFL’s best wide receiver this season. People with the Buccaneers will tell you Aqib Talib is one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks. These two will go head to head continually on Sunday when the Bucs and Falcons play at the Georgia Dome. The Bucs use Talib on the opposing team’s best receiver, no matter where he lines up, and that will make for a great individual battle. But this one has the potential for being entertaining in more than just a physical way. Talib and White are extremely competitive and two of the more talkative and animated players in the game. Just because a play ends, don’t stop watching these two. The real entertainment could come between plays.
Bulletin-board battle. Largely because coach Mike Smith is a no-frills guy, the Falcons don’t fight a lot of battles through the media. Although White sometimes is an exception, the Falcons are careful not to provide bulletin-board material for other teams. But they’re not above collecting bulletin-board material from elsewhere. When Raheem Morris declared Tampa Bay the best team in the NFC nearly two weeks ago, word got to Atlanta quickly. Since the declaration came during Atlanta’s bye week, the Falcons had a little extra time to ponder Morris’ words. Smith might not have to give a pregame talk this week because Morris already provided the motivation.
Grudge match. Speaking of motivation, keep an eye on Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant. He’s not a big fan of the current regime in Tampa Bay. Bryant gave the Bucs some good years, but was run out of town last year. Although he’s a kicker, Bryant can be a bit feisty, and he’ll be looking for any opportunity for revenge against his former team.
All hands on deck. It looks like the Saints are getting healthy. Cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter and running back Reggie Bush appear close to being ready to get back on the field. With a bye coming next week, there has to be a little temptation to rest everyone another week. But the Saints aren’t really in a position to do that. Their win against Pittsburgh had to be physically and mentally draining, and fresh troops could help make sure positive momentum carries over into the bye week and beyond. Carolina might be a bad team, but the Panthers always seem to play well against the Saints. New Orleans needs to play everyone who's healthy this week.
Looking ahead. Again, the Saints truly can’t afford to overlook the Panthers, a team they beat by two points in the Superdome this season. But take a look at New Orleans’ schedule after the bye. The Saints play Seattle, at Dallas, at Cincinnati and St. Louis. Assuming the Saints simply do what they should do, they’ll be 10-3 heading into a Dec. 19 game at Baltimore.