The Carolina Panthers may have had the week off, but their NFC South foes did not. Atlanta and Tampa Bay both were in action on Sunday and New Orleans highlights Monday Night Football against Miami in a battle of two 3-0 teams. It’s been an odd season for the NFC and even for the NFC South on Sunday leaving the division with only one team over .500, the division leading Saints.
We’ll start with the Bucs who are in utter disarray. They seem to be the Panthers of last season in blowing leads, but the one difference is the environment between the two organizations. Ron Rivera may hear calls to be canned by fans but we have never heard a player question him as a coach let alone say a bad word about him. That hasn’t been the case in Tampa where Greg Schiano is a polarizing figure. He alienated his starting quarterback Josh Freeman, who won’t be with the team much longer, and has had his best player Darrelle Revis publicly complain about him.
The Bucs took on Arizona at home and started rookie Mike Glennon at quarterback. They had a 10-point lead going into the fourth quarter, but Glennon made the mistake of throwing in Patrick Peterson’s direction who came up with two big interceptions. It ultimately led to another fourth quarter collapse and the Cardinals walking away with a 13-10 victory. They’ll face the Panthers next week at home in a game Carolina needs to get. It’s definitely one they can get, and one fans will assume they will get, but it won’t be as easy as playing New York.
Back to Tampa, though. The Bucs now sit at 0-4, are starting a rookie quarterback and have turmoil inside the locker room. This is going to get worse before it gets better.
The Falcons have had a tough schedule to start the season, but this team isn’t as good as the one that went to the NFC championship game last year. The Stephen Jackson signing has been a bust so far with him sidelined with an injury that will keep him out awhile, and Atlanta is having to rely too much on Matt Ryan. We saw it again against New England as Ryan threw the ball 54 times compared to just 15 runs. That can partly be attributed to the fact that they were trailing throughout, but the bottom line is this team no longer has a running game that is feared.
As good of a wide receiver tandem Julio Jones and Roddy White are it’s clear White’s gimpy ankle is hindering him. So far this season he has proven to be more of a decoy than anything. He’s tallied just 10 receptions on the year for 84 yards. This passing attack is still potent even with White banged up, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Patriots despite a late rally. All of Atlanta’s games have been decided by seven points or less, so it’s not as if this team can’t turn it around but a 1-3 after being one win away from the Super Bowl last season is going to incite panic.
Atlanta has a home game against the New York Jets on Monday Night Football next week, which will be touted as a must-win game for the Falcons.
Sean Payton is back and everything is going well for the Saints. If you want to poke at their 3-0 record it would be that it came against opponents with a combined record of 3-9, although I think we can all agree that the Falcons, who the Saints beat in Week 1 are better than their record indicates. As I already mentioned the Saints will square off against the 3-0 Dolphins in what appears to be a good game on paper.
We are going to find out a lot about these two teams. As far as New Orleans goes this game will tell us if Payton really has the Saints back to what they were a few years ago. They are going up against a young team in Miami, which will be playing in a tough environment. I’m leaning towards the Saints coming away with a statement win in this one, but I hope I’m wrong. If the Dolphins do win it’s more than safe to say that the NFC South is wide open.