Sunday was already set to be a big game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with the Atlanta Falcons coming to town for the team's second divisional game of the season.
What transpired over the last week of action, though, as raised the stakes significantly.
Tampa Bay has been sitting atop the NFC South all season, but there could be a power shift on Sunday if the team loses to Atlanta. The Falcons are just a game behind the Bucs and a win would catapult them into first place and send the Bucs tumbling backwards.
Losing last week to the Detroit Lions did the Bucs no favors, although the Saints losing on Thursday night helped out everyone. Both the Bucs and Falcons have a chance to further distance themselves from the Saints with a win, and whoever does end up victorious will have one half of an all important tiebreaker
It's a huge game, which means the Bucs are going to need their best players to be healthy and step up in order to get things back on track.
Is Vita Vea playing today? (Week 7)
There was some initial fear earlier in the week that Vita Vea might not be able to suit up on Sunday. He was dealing with a foot injury that held him out of practice on Thursday, although he was able to return in a limited capacity on Friday.
Vea wasn't ruled out on Saturday, which is typically when players who won't play get notified they'll be out, which was the first step in the right direction. On Sunday, the Bucs listed Vea as active and the plan seems to be that he will indeed play against the Falcons.
The Bucs will need their big man in the middle for its first test against Bijan Robinson. The Falcons drafted him in the Top 10 this year with specific designs on using him in games like the one today, which means the Bucs top-ranked run defense will need to show up and shut him down.
Vea is the plug in the middle of that run defense, and having him active is huge.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers inactives this week
Here's who will be inactive for today's game:
- David Wells, TE
- Derrek Pitts, CB
- Brandon Walton, OL
- Markees Watts, LB
- Pat O'Connor, DL
- Eli Ankou, DL
- Albert Huggins, DL
- Joe Gaziano, DL
- John FitzPatrick, TE
- Jovaughn Gwyn, OL
- Clark Phillips, CB
- Logan Woodside, QB