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Bucs prepare to face Falcons team that can run and stop the run

TAMPA, Fla. -- Here are 10 things to know about the Atlanta Falcons (6-1), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' opponent Sunday at the Georgia Dome:

1. The Falcons have a stout rush defense. For Bucs running back Doug Martin to have his fourth consecutive 100-yard game, he'll have to earn it. Atlanta ranks second in the NFL in rush defense, allowing just 78.6 yards per game. Only the Dallas Cowboys have gained more than 100 yards on the ground against the Falcons this season, when they had 127 in Week 3. Martin's production the past three games -- 365 yards on 63 carries -- has ignited the Bucs' offense. But Atlanta has the ability to slow him down.

2. Running back Devonta Freeman has come on strong. The second-year player leads the NFL with 621 yards on 131 carries. Freeman, a former Florida State teammate of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, was held to a 43 yards on 22 carries through the first two weeks this season, then rushed for 100 yards or more in four of the next five games.

3. There's plenty of star power in the Falcons' passing attack. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones make up one of the NFL's most prolific passing combinations this season. Ryan is fourth in the league in passing with 2,002 yards and Jones is second in receiving with 730 yards. Ryan, an eight-year veteran, surpassed 30,000 passing yards for his career in the second quarter of the Falcons' victory over the Tennessee Titans in Week 7.

4. The Falcons are capable of scoring lots of points, but Roddy White considers them to be in a funk. Atlanta ranks fourth in the NFL in scoring with 27.6 points per game, but White told ESPN Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure that "we've been struggling" after Atlanta's victory over Tennessee. The Falcons scored just 10 points in that game, committed two turnovers and were just 5-of-14 on third down.

5. The Falcons thrashed the Bucs in 2014. Atlanta drubbed Tampa Bay 56-14 at the Georgia Dome in Week 3 last season and outscored the Bucs by a combined score of 83-31 in the teams' two meetings.

6. Atlanta coach Dan Quinn has enjoyed instant success. The Falcons were in need of new blood after the Mike Smith Era ran its course with an underwhelming 10-22 record the past two seasons. Quinn, a first-time head coach who came to Atlanta after serving as the Seattle Seahawks' defensive coordinator during the 2013 and 2014 seasons, already has two more victories than Lovie Smith has in 22 games with Tampa Bay.

7. Questions remain about how good the Falcons really are. In the NFL, you take victories however they come. But it's fair to wonder about Atlanta, given its competition so far. Among the teams the Falcons have defeated, only the New York Giants (4-3) have a winning record. Atlanta is one of six teams in the NFC with a winning record, joining the Carolina Panthers (6-0), Green Bay Packers (6-0), Arizona Cardinals (5-2), Minnesota Vikings (4-2) and Giants.

8. Falcons offensive personnel will see a familiar face on the Bucs' sideline. Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter held the same role in Atlanta from 2012-14. During his time there, the Falcons cumulatively ranked second in the NFL in completion percentage (67.4), third in third-down conversion percentage (44.1) and fourth in passing yards (277.2 per game). Under Koetter, Ryan posted the three top passing-yardage seasons in franchise history. Koetter's hiring in January brought instant credibility to the Bucs' offense after it slogged through last season with Marcus Arroyo calling plays in Jeff Tedford's absence.

9. Atlanta has dominated Tampa Bay at the Georgia Dome recently. Talk about a house of horrors for the Bucs. Atlanta has beaten Tampa Bay six of the past seven times they've met at the Falcons' home. The Bucs' lone victory in the span came in Week 17 of the 2012 season.

10. Despite the Falcons' early gains, they have little margin of error in chasing the Panthers. The NFC South is the only division that features two teams with six victories. Unfortunately for Atlanta, Carolina is off to its best start in franchise history. Barring a rally by either the Bucs or Saints (3-4), the NFC South will be decided between the Falcons and Panthers. That means Atlanta can't afford to lose a game against an inferior opponent, such as ampa Bay.