Another week of football is in the books and it was another rough weekend for the NFC South. What was supposed to be one of the better divisions in football has become one of the worst. It’s amazing how things can flip in the NFL year to year. Last year the New Orleans Saints were a sorry bunch, but now they are once again possibly the best team in the league, while the Atlanta Falcons have completely fallen apart.
We’ve seen more of the same from Tampa Bay and Carolina, two teams that find ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Let’s take a look at what happened in the division in Week 5.
The Saints didn’t have much trouble on the road with a solid Chicago team. They now sit at 5-0 and are heavy favorites to win the division with no other team sporting a winning record. Having Sean Payton back leading the team is reason enough to explain their turnaround, but you also have to look at Drew Brees who hasn’t turned the ball over as much. He’s thrown four picks on the season but has gone the last two without one.
Last year he was a bit careless with the ball at times and it shows in the 19 interceptions he threw. With Payton back and Brees taking better care of the ball, it’s easy to tout this team as one of the few teams who are good enough to make the Super Bowl. If you’re looking for a reason to doubt the Saints it would have to be their lack of a running game. That could be a problem down the line, but it appears the Saints are destined to cruise to a division title and possibly the No. 1 seed in the NFC this year.
What a missed opportunity of a season it has been for the Panthers. It’s one thing to get beat on the road but it’s another to beat yourself. The Panthers have beat themselves twice on the road this season with mistakes. Hats off to Arizona for taking the game from Carolina, but if Steve Smith doesn’t drop that touchdown that’s an entirely different game we see. Instead he did, and then Brandon LaFell dropped a ball on fourth down that took points off the board on another drive. Those two plays pretty much sum up the Panthers under Ron Rivera.
Now the Panthers sit at 1-3 and head to a tough environment in Minnesota where the Vikings are coming off a win and a bye. I live in Minnesota, so I rarely get a chance to see the Panthers play but I’m opting to stay home for this one because that’s how much I don’t trust this team to go on the road and win right now. Basically, this team isn’t worth getting publicly harassed.
If you’re looking for a bright side in all of this it would still be the schedule. The Panthers don’t play a team with a winning record (as of now) until they meet up with San Francisco in Week 10. A win against Minnesota would mean a 2-3 record with St. Louis coming to Charlotte followed by a Thursday night road game against the miserable Bucs. So while the season feels like it’s a lost one don’t be surprised if the Panthers find themselves at 4-3 come November.
Of course, they could also be 2-5. You just never know with this team.
It appears that it is over for the Falcons. A Monday night loss to New York in a game they needed put their record at 1-4, but the news of Julio Jones likely being out for the rest of the season is the nail and the coffin for the Falcons. Roddy White has been battling an ankle injury and then last night he left with a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter.
Matt Ryan’s only reliable target now is the ageless wonder Tony Gonzalez, who is most likely regretting coming out of retirement right now. Hopefully the Falcons will do right by him and look to deal him to a contender because he deserves better than to get his body beat up for a team that isn’t going anywhere this season.
Atlanta will square off with Tampa Bay Sunday.
The Bucs didn’t play this week but they still made headlines by finally letting go of Josh Freeman. Say what you want about Greg Schiano, but he has had his team in every game this season except for one against New England. Tampa Bay has been the poster child for soul crushing losses this year and it looks like this ride is going to continue to get bumpier before it smooths out. The fan base wants Schiano out, his players appear to want him out, which means he’ll probably be out at some point this season if the Bucs don’t magically turn it around.
With Mark Glennon leading the way it’s hard to see that happening. Tampa is way too talented to be a last place team, but it looks like the cellar has the Bucs’ name all over it in the NFC South this season.