1. Will the real Matt Ryan stand up? Matt Ryan could not have had two more distinctly different performances in such a short span. Just days after throwing for a franchise-record 448 yards, Ryan was under siege against the Bengals and threw three interceptions for only the fifth time in 96 career regular-season games. When protected, Ryan will dissect the defense. While being harassed and forced to throw quick passes, Ryan can look bad. He's the one throwing the party for Jake Matthews' return from an ankle injury.
2. When will the defense start coming together? Coach Mike Smith is looking for some results from the revamped defense. He needs someone to step forward and make some plays against the run and rush the passer. In 66 pass-rush snaps, the Falcons have no sacks, one hit and 24 hurries. Designated pass rusher Osi Umenyiora has one hurry in 40 rush attempts. "There is no rule against whipping a block and making a play," Smith said.
3. Can Lovie Smith restore the Tampa Bay tradition? The Bucs are off to a 0-2 start after a promising offseason that included the hiring of Lovie Smith, who guided the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl. Smith was a former member of Tony Dungy's staff in Tampa Bay and was hired to return some luster to the franchise, which has fallen on hard times. He started his NFL career as the Buccaneers' linebackers coach in 1996 as part of Dungy's first staff. He helped turn around a franchise that had gone 15 years without a playoff berth, eventually leading to the team's Super Bowl victory under Jon Gruden.
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Credit: Bob Andres, email@example.com