Written by: Joe Carlino @joecarlino14
The NFC South has arguably been the best division in football, primarily because it’s the hardest to predict based on consistent turnover. To kick off the 100th season, which also represented the 18th year of this division since the realignment, all four teams were in action between Sunday afternoon and Monday evening. Here’s where the division stands entering Week Two, complete with an analysis of their respective contests and previewing the next opponent:
New Orleans Saints (1-0)
Week One Result: Won 30-28 vs. Houston
Analysis: What a close contest for the opening Monday night football slate, huh? Drew Brees and Co. nearly saw their home opener spoiled by Deshaun Watson and the Texans, but barely escaped by the skin of their teeth courtesy of a 58-yard game-winner by Will Lutz. Not trying to discredit anything here, but the Superdome is very difficult for opposing teams to come in and take victory, yet the Saints needed to win at the buzzer? While there were some big moments (Latavius Murray 30-yard TD), like every other member of this division, the Saints have some errors to correct if they want to continue their reign in the South. Otherwise, Atlanta and Carolina will catch up quick.
Up next: Sunday afternoon @ Los Angeles. A rematch of the NFC Championship game, just out west instead of in the Dome. Of course, expect some still-salty Saints fans to do what they did last week and show up in referee jerseys and boo any call against them. But as for the rest of the game? More fireworks between the two powerhouses. Sign me up, please.
Carolina Panthers (0-1)
Week One Result: Lost 30-27 vs. Los Angeles
Analysis: Carolina played the defending NFC champions at home and nearly came out with the victory. Alas, it just wasn’t meant to be, and the team now faces the same task as Atlanta: getting back to .500. That said, the team can take solace in two areas: they blocked a punt by Johnny Hekker (two teams in the division having BLK punts, just opposite methods) and they really have a stud in Christian McCaffrey.
Up Next: Thursday night vs. Tampa Bay. If anything can come out of this, it’s that new Panther Gerald McCoy is salivating over this contest. Heck, he did say he circled it in “blue ink” this time. It makes one wonder if Jameis will return from Charlotte still intact if his O-line lets this man get to him.
Atlanta Falcons (0-1)
Week One Result: Lost 28-12 @ Minnesota
Analysis: What in the world was going on for the Falcons? First play-sack. First drive-blocked punt. Second drive-INT. Need I say more? Atlanta found themselves down 14-0 in only the first seven-and-a-half minutes, which is not a good sign for a perennial NFC contender. That said, Minnesota is always tough at home, their defense has been incredible in recent years, and their offense literally ran behind Dalvin Cook, who torched the Falcons defense for 111 yards and two touchdowns. At least Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley scored, though.
Up Next: Sunday night vs. Philadelphia. Carson Wentz coming back from 17 down to beat Washington last week? Adding speed demon Desean Jackson? A tough challenge awaits Atlanta, with a chance to get back to .500 up for grabs. However, this is the fourth straight season the Falcons have started 0-1 under Dan Quinn, so this is a great matchup for Sunday night.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)
Week One Result: Lost 31-17 vs. San Francisco
Analysis: Despite bringing in a new head coach, Jameis Winston still can’t seem to shake off the turnover problem that has plagued him since he entered the league. I’ll admit, the one interception he threw that bounced off OJ Howard is not his fault; any receiver will admit that, given the chance to put their hands on the ball, they have to come down with it. The other INTs, however, cannot be defended, as both were returned for touchdowns and were poorly thrown, especially the final one. Also, he could’ve had two more INTs, but they were dropped by former Buc Kwon Alexander and cornerback Tavarious Moore. As a bonus, the run game (which my review about wasn’t good) failed to get anything going, proving my early prediction was right. I get Bruce Arians’ “no risk it, no biscuit” mentality, but when he’s coming out and saying things about your turnover problem, then there’s cause for concern, especially in a contract year.
Up Next: Thursday night @ Carolina. And former Buc Gerald McCoy. Oof.