Buccaneers at Falcons -- Week 17

Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta (indoors, turf)

When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (Fox)

Spread: Falcons by 8.5

Records: Bucs (6-9, NFC South: 2-3); Falcons (13-2, NFC South: 3-2)

Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Nov. 25, 2012: Atlanta 24, Tampa Bay 23; Jan. 1, 2012: Falcons 45, Buccaneers 24. Series record: The NFC South rivals are tied in the all-time series at 19-19, but the Falcons have won seven of the last eight games in the series.

What matters: Quite honestly, nothing is on the line in this game save for a bit of pride on both sides. The Falcons already locked up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, and the Bucs' current five-game losing streak was enough to eliminate them from postseason contention heading into Week 16. This game will provide a final opportunity for players to show their worth to decision-makers in the front office heading into the offseason. For Atlanta, the goal is simply to stay healthy and not accrue too much rust heading into the playoffs.

Who matters: QB Josh Freeman. Statistically, he has had one of the best seasons -- if not the best -- of any player at his position in franchise history. But his lack of accuracy (only 54.9 percent of his passes have been completed) and poor play down the stretch has some fans openly wondering if he is the person the Buccaneers want leading the franchise in the years to come. Freeman has thrown eight interceptions in the team's last two games and will want to leave the season on a more positive note.

Key matchups: The Falcons receivers vs. the Bucs' cornerbacks. It remains to be seen just how much playing time Atlanta will give its starters, but if WRs Roddy White and Julio Jones get much of an opportunity, watch out. Tampa Bay has been one of the NFL's worst pass defenses all season and is giving up more than 300 yards per game through the air. One would expect White and Jones to torch the Bucs as long as they play. What might be more telling is how the Falcons' backups fare once they enter the game. 

Injuries of note: For the Bucs, there are no real injury questions heading into the game, as they have stayed largely healthy down the stretch. No typical contributors are expected to miss action.

Inside stuff: Bucs DT Gerald McCoy was named to the NFC Pro Bowl roster earlier this week. In the 34 games he has played since being drafted No. 3 overall in 2010, Tampa Bay has given up an average of 109.2 rushing yards per game. In the 13 games he has missed over the same span of time, the Buccaneers have given up 161.2 rushing yards per game. 

Connections: Falcons head coach Mike Smith was the offensive coordinator in Jacksonville when current Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan was an offensive assistant with the Jaguars. Falcons president Rich McKay was in Tampa Bay for 12 years before moving to Atlanta. Matt Bryant, the Atlanta placekicker, played for the Bucs from 2005-08.

Stats you should know: No matter how poorly the Bucs' defense plays on Sunday, it will be hard-pressed to struggle more than Tampa Bay did in its last game at the Georgia Dome, as the Falcons scored 42 points in the first half of what was ultimately a 45-24 win on Jan. 1, 2012. … In a sign of its recent dominance in the series, Atlanta has won each of the last four meetings between these teams at the Georgia Dome. … If the Bucs give up 252 passing yards or more on Sunday, they will set a new record for most passing yards given up in a season in NFL history.

Record watch: With his next touchdown pass, Freeman will claim sole possession of the Tampa Bay records for most TD tosses in a season (currently 26, held by Freeman and Brad Johnson) and in a career (currently 77, held by Freeman and Vinny Testaverde). With 157 passing yards, Freeman would also become the franchise's first-ever 4,000-yard passer. WR Vincent Jackson would become Tampa Bay's leader in receiving yards in a single season with 69 yards on Sunday, passing Mark Carrier. 

Looking ahead: For Atlanta, the playoffs await. For the Bucs, it's the offseason -- one that will almost certainly see the franchise try to make moves in free agency and the draft to improve in two key areas: the pass rush and cornerback play.

Prediction: Falcons 31, Bucs 24

For more from Tampa Bay Bucs blogger Patrick Southern, follow @CBSBucs on Twitter.