The NFC is so wide open that a Thursday night meeting between Atlanta and Tampa Bay could wind up having some significance when the playoff races conclude.
Neither team has been particularly consistent. Had the Falcons not held off Green Bay on Sunday, they would have been in a freefall similar to last season, when they went from 6-1 to 8-8.
"When you come through in those, for sure it gives you something," coach Dan Quinn says. "To get the job done (Sunday) was significant."
The Buccaneers, meanwhile, can't win at home, dropping all three matchups. One of their three wins came in Atlanta to open the schedule.
Tampa would be most tempted to throw on offense because Atlanta is ranked only 27th against the pass. Now that their top three running backs — Doug Martin, Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers — are hobbled, the Bucs might not have a choice.
The challenge isn't just physical, either.
"It's very difficult physically and it's very difficult mentally, too, because they didn't get a chance to process the last game," says Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith, the Falcons' former coach.
"We haven't even talked to them about the last game, haven't talked one word about the last ballgame. We've moved on to the next one because that's the challenge that we have."
The Falcons (No. 6 in AP Pro32) are 2 1-2 point favorites over the Bucs (No. 25). They will respond better to the challenge.