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Friday, October 15, 2010
NFL Trimester Report: NFC South "Contender or Pretender"
So far the NFC South has been one of the league's most competitive divisions, except for the lowly Carolina Panthers. It remains to be seen if one of the NFL's biggest surprises (Tampa Bay) can sustain this type of performance throughout the rest of the schedule...
After missing the playoffs in 2009, the Falcons have done what they were supposed to do with their early schedule, which is play the good teams tough (with a six point loss to Pittsburgh and a three point OT road win against the Saints) and demolish the lesser teams (including a 41-7 blowout against the dysfunctional Cardinals). Atlanta has utilized a smart game plan featuring heavy doses of the run with Michael Turner, which has put 3rd year QB Matt Ryan in very manageable situations and able to get the ball to his favorite targets WR Roddy White and TE Tony Gonzalez. The defense has played solid all-around and should continue to get key stops and force big turnovers. Contender
Tampa Bay (3-1)
2nd year quarterback Josh Freeman (pictured above) has reason to be smiling. I doubt anyone predicted the Buccaneers would be 3-1 so far, but besides a 3 point gift from Carson Palmer and the Bengals, a .500 record at this point wouldn't have been a shock. Freeman has been the biggest surprise. He has limited the interceptions and fumbles that plagued him in his rookie year and has also developed a nice chemistry with rookie WR Mike Williams. The defense hasn't really been tested yet and their running game is atrocious, so it would be tough to expect the Bucs to keep up their winning ways. Pretender
New Orleans (3-2)
The defending Super Bowl champs have had their flashes so far this season, but a knee injury to dynamic RB Reggie Bush has caused the high-powered offense to sputter at times. It just seems like something is missing. With Bush out defenses can key in and double team WR Marques Colston which limits the Saints effectiveness in the red zone. It also doesn't help All-pro QB Drew Brees that the running game ranks 2nd to last in the NFL with only 75 yards per game. Bush should be returning in the next couple weeks and the Saints have a couple of easy games coming up so they have time to right the ship. Contender
They are what we thought they were; really bad. Rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen already thrown into the fire, defense that can't stop the run, running game that sees 8 in the box on a regular basis = formula for disaster. The Panthers need tons of help on offense and defense. Hopefully they have their scouts working overtime preparing for April's draft. Pretender