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State of the NFC South: Where does the division stand after Week Six?

Graphic by Robert Robinson

Written by: Joe Carlino @joecarlino14

Week Six is now complete, ladies and gentlemen, and honestly, I’m in shock as to how the NFC South has shaped up. Clearly, my early season prediction (while maybe with a little bit of heart involved) has turned out to be so wrong, there’s not even a chance of laughter in this futurecast. This division has roughly turned out the same way they did last year, but with just a few wrinkles around the middle of October. Here’s where the division stands entering Week Seven*, complete with an analysis of their respective contests and previewing the next opponent:

*- how the division looks from first to last place

New Orleans Saints (5-1)

Week Six Result: Won 13-6 @ Jacksonville

Analysis: Bridgewater and Co. still continue to win games, and that’s only going to benefit them in the future. Aided by a defense which still impresses week in and week out, Marshon Lattimore continues to improve, currently looking like one of the best shutdown cornerbacks in the league. And I can’t forget “Handlebar” Cameron Jordan, who’s arguably got the best mustache in the game not named Gardner Minshew. While a small 13-6 victory, yes, there’s a much higher upside to this for the Saints. This game proved that they can win it in shootouts and in low-scoring affairs. Teams that can do both consistently are always a formidable foe late in the year.

Up next: Sunday @ Chicago. A rematch of the 2006 NFC Championship game, only this time the Bears now must contend with former NFC North rival Teddy Bridgewater leading the helm. Also, this defense is playing harder than they did in that contest, so expect some major fireworks to be in effect. Chicago needs this game to keep pace in their own division, while the Saints are playing almost as similarly as they did last season, just with more consistency across the board. Should the Saints win this game, I don’t see any reason how they won’t be in contention for a first-round bye come January.

Carolina Panthers (4-2)

Week Six Result: Won 37-26 @Tampa Bay (London)

Analysis: 4-0. Kyle Allen just keeps on winning football games, and he’s keeping the Panthers afloat in the hunt for the division title. Of course, he’s being aided by great defensive play that is generating a pass rush and the MVP-caliber performance of running back Christian McCaffrey. I’ll mark it right here: he’s who I would cast a vote for, even though it usually goes to a quarterback for their performance. He’s just so dominant and is a mismatch wherever he is on the field, which always poses a major advantage for the Carolina offense. If Carolina continues to win, it’ll be hard to deny that he deserves some serious consideration..

Up Next: Bye.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4)

Week Six Result: Lost 37-26 vs. Carolina (London)

Analysis: This road trip is going to be brutal for the Buccaneers moving forward. The team had already gone 1-1 with an impressive road win at the Rams before falling to New Orleans in a usually-unwinnable environment. That all changed when they went across the pond to play the Panthers in their one sanctioned International Series game as per Super Bowl host agreements. I think it’s safe to say that they probably could’ve done without this game because the Bucs came out flat and uninterested against Kyle Allen (who, I might add, is still playing good in Cam’s absence). While it definitely didn’t help the Bucs that their star QB, Jameis Winston, had another game to forget (his fifth contest since entering the league of at least four turnovers), the reality is the Bucs still aren’t there for a contending spot in an already loaded division and conference. Yes, Jameis threw picks on his first and last passes of the day, but the duress he endured definitely played into such a performance, even if most fans are accustomed to this being the norm for him. Also, what’s happened to Shaq Barrett, guys? I haven’t heard anything from him these last two weeks.

Up Next: Bye.

Atlanta Falcons (1-5)

Week Six Result: Lost 34-33 @ Arizona

Analysis: This feels like 2007 meets 2014 all over again for Falcons fans. Everything that needed to go wrong for this team has, and there really doesn’t seem like there’s an end in sight. This game was arguably their easiest chance to secure a win before the bye, and they went down 17 points again for the third straight week. Yes, they came back and nearly forced overtime, but in a staple of how this season has gone, the clutchest kicker in the NFL not named Gostkowski or Vinatieri missed his third PAT since the league moved the spot back to the 15-yard line. I could go off on the referees about this game, and on three specific plays (that was a fumble, you cannot deny that) I could be justified. However, that’s not the case. The reality is the defense is still surrendering big plays and constantly getting out of position, and the team is currently doomed to play like the Saints did from 2012-2014, before they got a defense. Also, take note of tomorrow, because I’m having an article released that I hope reaches Arthur Blank before he makes a decision regarding Dan Quinn’s future.

Up Next: Sunday vs. Los Angeles (NFC). Two straight home games come for the Falcons before their Week Nine bye, and if there was ever a game that, despite the way they’re playing they could steal, it’s this week against a reeling Rams squad. Since Quinn took over the reigns in Atlanta, the team hasn’t lost to the Hollywood squad, going 2-0 with a playoff victory to boot. I don’t know if just one win of these two at home could be enough to save Quinn’s job, but I’m part of the minority which hopes Arthur Blank doesn’t buy into the media narrative and gives Quinn the rest of the year before moving on. The man has earned it.

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