There's no reason for the Atlanta Falcons to play at their best Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but head coach Mike Smith insists the team is treating its season finale like any other game.
With the top seed in the NFC sealed up -- and with it, home-field advantage for the entire playoffs as well as a first round bye -- it doesn't make a difference whether Atlanta enters the postseason at 14-2 or 13-3. Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote about Smith's desire to play just as hard in Week 17 as they did for the first 16:
"That’s how we approach it," he said. "It’s an important game because it’s a division game. All games are important. Does it have no bearing? It really does because we want to win every time we go out there to play."
However, the team will be taking things a little bit easier in the run-up to the game. With Christmas Tuesday, players will be on their own until Wednesday, with the coaches not intending to stay as long after practice gameplanning as they typically do. Smith said the way the team prepares going forward will be planned so they don't make the same mistakes they did in 2010, when they were blown out 48-21 by the Green Bay Packers after a first-round bye.