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Payton hears a “Who Dat” : Status of the NFC South
- Updated: October 4, 2013
It is amazing how this division has turned out to be completely one-sided. Many expected this to be a highly contested division and so far, after the first quarter of the season, this doesn’t seem to be the case at all.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 0-4
Many expected the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to crawl out of the curtain of mediocrity and show signs of playoff contention with the emergence of star running back Doug Martin, the return of shutdown corner Darrell Revis and offensive weapon Vincent Jackson. The Bucs showed flashes of excellence during the second game of the season against the New Orleans Saints, keeping it a very close game, losing by only 2 points, sacking QB Drew Brees four times and intercepting him twice.
Very impressive defensive stand on arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
However, they regressed the following week losing to a struggling Patriots offense (consisting of almost only rookie players), 3 to 27.
But no matter how well your Defense can play, if your players keep making mental errors (such as tackling Rookie QB Geno Smith as he is out of bounds to allow a last second, game-winning FG in Week 1 against the Jets) or you have extremely weak participation from your quarterback, your team is not going to win many games.
Sad enough to say, Josh Freeman is not the answer to this franchise and coach Greg Schiano is currently looking to trade him away and bet all his cards on rookie QB Mike Glennon.
Atlanta Falcons: 1-3
The Falcons preseason woes (0-4) carried on over to their season opener against their division rival, the New Orleans Saints. While preseason isn’t all that much of an accurate indicator of how a team will perform in the regular season, dropping their first game on the road against the former 7-9 New Orleans Saints definitely set the tone for both teams.
In 2012, Atlanta had only 3 losses all season but they have managed to tie that in the first quarter of the 2013 regular season. In the four games they have played, the average score difference between the Falcons and their opponents has been only six points. In other words, if they scored a touchdown in three of their games or didn’t score that one TD against the St. Louis Rams, this team could have easily been 0-4 or at the very least, be at .500.
Even with the addition of running back Steven Jackson (and unfortunate temporary exit due to injury), the Falcons have yet to capture the same explosiveness they had in offense last year. Matt Ryan needs to rally his troops and truly stay “ice cool” during key drives in close-games. Matty Ice has melted under the pressure during very important drives in key games (i.e: last drive of: 2012 NFC Conference game, 2013 Season opener against the Saints, 2013 Week 4 match-up against the Patriots) and he must overcome this. This ship should right itself as the season progresses, and what better way to do so against the struggling New York Jets.
Carolina Panthers: 1-2
In spite of their record, the Panthers could have been a dominant 3-0. Carolina’s defense played very well at home against an early Super Bowl favorite, the Seattle Seahawks by keeping the game tight throughout the four quarters: Carolina lost this game by only five points.
In their second game, Carolina lost a heart-breaker to Buffalo when the Panthers D blew their coverage assignment on Stevie Johnson, allowing E.J Manuel to connect with him in the waning moments of the game: Carolina lost this game by only one point.
Week 3 was a true eye opener for Panther fans and players alike: Carolina shutdown the New York Football Giants 38-0. Their defense mangled the offensive line, forced costly turnovers and shutdown any offensive drive New York had.
Personally, what made me think that Carolina may have a chance to be the surprise team in this division was their preseason performance against the reigning Super Bowl Champions, the Baltimore Ravens. The outstanding play by their defensive line and superb coverage by 2012 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Luke Kuechly, showed to many fans and pundits alike: this defense looks nasty when it’s on point.
After the complete humiliation that Cam Newton and his team brought upon Big Blue, they entered their Bye-Week on the upswing, which should carry through to their return when they face the Arizona Cardinals.
New Orleans Saints: 4-0
With Sean Payton missing at the helm, this team struggled greatly to win games last year, struggled to find any sort of offense in the run game, struggled to cause turnovers and stops on defense; all these events collided with one another which led them to finish a lackluster 7-9.
Amazing how the return of Sean Payton and the hiring of former Dallas Cowboys Defensive Coordinator, Rob Ryan, has ignited a spark in this team which revitalized this franchise as the high power playoff team we are used to seeing in recent years.
The Saints started off the season by stamping themselves as the team to beat in the division, by defeating the 2012 #1 seed in the NFC and reigning NFC South Champions, the Atlanta Falcons. In the following week, New Orleans traveled to Tampa Bay to win their second game of the season over the Buccaneers, to establish a comfortable NFL and divisional record of 2-0.
Week 3 and Week 4 showed complete offensive and defensive dominance over the Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins winning both weeks, with a combined score of 69-24.
Drew Brees continues to find Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles in the open field and the new Rob Ryan defense has them +5 in turnover ratio, #5 in points allowed, #5 in passing yards allowed and #6 in Total yards allowed. If this team can stay healthy, they are destined to return to the playoffs…Dare I say all the way to the NFC Conference Game? (Seattle vs New Orleans anyone?)
If Horton can’t, I’m sure Payton hears a Who Dat; at 4-0, I sure as hell do.
(Photo credit: modenadude)
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