Any given Sunday, they always say, right? Absolutely. On any given Sunday (or Monday) a team can play extremely well and beat anybody – or they can play like they’ve never seen a football and lose miserably. Such is life in the NFL.
The NFC South is a microcosm of this adage and they proved it in week five. There was a beat down of a team from that other conference, a jaw-dropping upset, a team that really didn’t look so great and one heartbreaking defeat.
Atlanta Falcons (3-2):
Looking Back: How many would have called it? Seriously, who would have thought that the Atlanta Falcons would be above .500 after five games especially after an upset win over the Packers on the Tepid Tundra of Lambeau Field? That’s exactly what happened Sunday with Matt Ryan looking more and more each week like a smart choice and the future of this franchise. Michael Turner continues to pound the rock. They may not have been facing the Brett Fah-vruh Packers but this win came out of nowhere and now the Falcons must be taken seriously.
Looking Forward: The next team that had better take this Falcons bunch seriously is Chicago. The Bears play an aggressive defense and will be determined to shut Turner down. You just have to sense that Mike Smith has this team believing in what they are doing. Their home crowd will rock the Georgia Dome next week knowing two things – 1) Their team is no longer the pushover, the easy win that every team looked forward to on their schedule and 2) With a win they can be no worse than one game out of first place and could potentially be in a three-way tie at the end of week six.
Carolina Panthers (4-1):
Looking Back: Missing both of their starting offensive tackles – Jeff Otah (ankle) and Jordan Gross (concussion) – didn’t seem to phase this bunch one bit. They ran over and through the lowly Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for nearly 200 yards while Jake Delhomme put in a fine performance throwing for two scores. Meanwhile, the defense held Larry Johnson to all of 2 (yes, two) yards and forced three turnovers. It may have been the Chiefs but it still equaled a hard-earned shutout victory.
Looking Forward: Now it’s showdown time. This is where the men will be separated from the boys. The wheat and the chaffe will…oh, enough metaphors. The biggest divisional matchup of the season awaits the Panthers next week as they travel to Tampa to take on the Buccaneers. Getting healthy along that offensive line will be crucial this week to handle the pressure of the Bucs’ defense. Next week, it’s a game for first place and an early test for both teams. Call in the dogs and pee on the fire. This one will be worth watching.
New Orleans Saints (2-3):
Looking Back: A high-powered offense versus a tough-nosed defense. Who would come out on top? Early on Antoine Winfield introduced himself to the New Orleans faithful. Antoine blocked a field goal and ran it back 59 yards for a score. He would later force a fumble setting up another score for the Vikings. A quick 7-0 lead had turned into a 10-point deficit by halftime. The problem is that nobody told the Vikings to never, ever, punt to Reggie Bush. They did…not once, not twice but three times! The results – a 71-yard TD, another return that helped setup the tying field goal and a 64-yard go-ahead touchdown. In the end it was the Saints defense that let them down – called for pass interference putting the Vikings inside the 20 and the chance to put up the winning points.
Looking Forward: Lucky for this team, things do get a little easier. The Raiders come to town next Sunday with a new head coach in place that Al Davis knows little about. I think it’s some guy named Cable. Is it too early in the season to talk about must-win games? Not for this team in this division. The Raiders possess enough playmakers on both sides of the ball to pose a threat – a real threat. The last time they were seen, they were giving the Chargers all they could handle. Brees and company will have to be prepared to play well if they are to get back on track.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2):
Looking Back: Let’s see if we have this right. Last week the Chiefs put up 33 points on the Denver defense. This week, the Bucs managed only 13. See? We told you – any given Sunday! Tampa Bay managed 300 yards of offense but had a situation at quarterback with Brian Griese getting hurt and Jeff Garcia being forced into action. The difficulties through the air hurt the Bucs as they only put up 168 yards. A resurgent Broncos’ defense coupled with an inconsistent Buccaneers offense were the culprits. Jon Gruden was not a happy camper. Not that he’s ever a truly happy camper.
Looking Forward: It will get no easier for this team. The Panthers come to town next week with their two-headed running back monster, a surgically-repaired Jake Delhomme and a defense that means business. The decision will now have to be made between an aging Garcia and a banged up Griese. Chucky loves quarterbacks but couldn’t love what he saw against the Broncos. Who will he choose? Flip a coin. Your guess is a good as ours. Either way, this is for first place and the Bucs will be ready to defend their great big pirate ship on the left coast of Florida.