Some call it parity. Others call it unpredictable. I’m sorry but I have to call it a pain in the neck.
Carolina’s running game versus Detroit’s crappy defense equals an easy win, right? Wrong! Atlanta’s ground attack versus a Denver defense that can’t stop anybody should mean a blowout, right? Wrong! New Orleans plus Kansas City should equate to a mammoth beating, correct? Wrong again! Tampa Bay would find it difficult to beat Minnesota. Well, that one we got right.
Welcome to the always exciting, if not occasionally baffling NFC South!
Atlanta Falcons (6-4):
Looking Back: Michael Turner had a big game. Matt Ryan was his usual steady yet rookie self. The problem was that one of the big upsets in week 11 occurred in the Georgia Dome as Denver found enough of a defense to slow down the Falcons attack to pull out a win. Atlanta had won some close ones but it was not to be on Sunday with a 4-point loss.
Looking Forward: This week should have been easier. Maybe Atlanta got caught looking ahead as next up on the schedule is a home date with the Carolina Panthers. Had the Falcons won this week, their next game wold have been for first place. Now, this matchup is to keep themselves in the race and to avoid letting Carolina run away with the division.
Carolina Panthers (8-2):
Looking Back: We’ve seen this before from the Carolina Jekyl and Hyde Show. They should have beaten Oakland easily. Nope. Facing Daunte Culpepper and the hapless Detroit Lions at home should have meant something akin a Motor City Meltdown. Instead it turned into a hard-fought nine-point win that was even closer than that. Carolina did set a franchise record for rushing yardage in a game (264) but showed a penchant for allowing rushing yardage for a second straight week. John Fox will be quick to point out that “a win is a win.”
Looking Forward: No fans will be complaining next week if the Panthers win a close one since they’ll be playing on the road in A-Town versus the Falcons. Since the last time these two teams met, Matt Ryan has gotten better and the Dirty Birds have a strong belief in themselves. To pull this one out, Jake Delhomme will have to find his mojo, the offensive line will have to get their act together and the defense will need to find the cure for their seeming inability to stop the run.
New Orleans Saints (5-5):
Looking Back: Lance Moore. Not Lance Bass. Let’s be sure we got that right out of the gate. Now that we have that out of the way, New Orleans bounced back from another stinging loss with a victory over the “Playing to Win the Game” Chiefs. Drew Brees had no arguments with Jeremy “The Painted One” Shockey and Deuce McAllister was able to contribute while awaiting the ax to fall from the league office.
Looking Forward: Can they win two in a row for the first time all season? Their test will be a home game versus the Green Bay Packers. The way the Pack looked against the Bears on Sunday sure makes this one look like a tough one. The defense will have to pick it up a notch to face Aaron Rodgers and the offense might have to brace themselves for simply outscoring the opposition.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3):
Looking Back: This team has been resilient. There is little question about it. They have found many ways to win – 60 passes – check, the running game – check, bludgeoning their opponent with defense – check. Minnesota posed matchup problems for the Bucs but, again, they overcame. This time it was a gritty performance worthy of John Facenda’s legendary voice.
Looking Forward: Tampa Bay will be facing the surprisingly tough to beat Detroit Lions next. Something in the air says that Jon Gruden’s bunch will have little if any trouble handling them and keeping pace with the Panthers.