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The NFC South Is Upside Down

Bradford Evans |
September 17, 2014 | 5:08 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

The NFC South is always an interesting division to keep your eyes on. Since the NFC South’s inception in 2002, there has never been a repeating winner in this division, which shows how competitive these four teams are year in and year out.

The 2014 season is no different from any other year. The divisional games will be tough, and each game is going to have playoff implications.

As we head into Week 3, both the Buccaneers and the Saints are 0-2, the Falcons are 1-1 and the Panthers, a team most picked to regress, are sitting atop the division at 2-0. 

The Buccaneers so far have been a major disappointment. Although one could label the Bucs as a perennial disappointment, this year is especially bad. The Buccaneers brought in former Bears’ coach, Lovie Smith, to bring back the “Tampa 2” defense. The Tampa 2 scheme relies on the four man front generating pressure on the opposing quarterback, with little to no blitzing coming from linebackers or the secondary. So far, the Bucs have yet to generate the pressure necessary for this defense to work. 

Not only did Tampa Bay bring in a proven coach, they were also the most active team in free agency. The Buccaneers brought in corner back Alterraun Verner, defensive end Michael Johnson and quarterback Josh McCown. Although it’s early in the season, no free agents have yet distinguished themselves as impact players. 

Tampa Bay had better get it together, or 0-5 is a realistic possibility as they face the Falcons, Steelers and Saints the next three weeks. 

We move on to the next 0-2 team, the New Orleans Saints. The Saints are coming off a terrible loss to the Cleveland Browns in which they blew their lead after coming back from a 16-3 deficit and ended up losing 24-26. The reason this is so terrible for the Saints is that they lost to the Browns... The Cleveland Browns

The Saints have played their opponents closely, but they have one major flaw, which is their defense late in games. It seems as though when the game is on the line, the Saints’ defense has a mental lapse and allows for big plays during crunch time. 

SEE MORE: NFL Quick Hits, Week 2: Seahawks Stumble While Patriots Return To Form

Cammy Cam is all smiles after two wins to open the season. (FFCounselor/Creative Commons)
Cammy Cam is all smiles after two wins to open the season. (FFCounselor/Creative Commons)
Next up, the Atlanta Falcons, who judging by the first game, looked as though they were on track for another season like the one they had two years ago. The Falcons showed poise and grit in staging a comeback against the Saints. Not only did their two best receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones have monster games, but everyone else whose job it was to catch balls did too.

The following week was a complete U-turn from anything positive Atlanta had going for them in the first game. Familiar problems recurred for the Falcons, and this time they looked more like the 4-12 Falcons from last year. 

Cincinnati’s defensive line schooled Atlanta’s offensive line. Although promising first round pick Jake Matthews was injured for the game, he alone would not have made a difference. Matt Ryan was under constant bombardment from the opposition and had no chance to get into a rhythm. 

If there isn’t drastic improvement from Atlanta’s offensive line, then it will be another long season for the Falcons.

Unlike the other three teams in the NFC South, the Panthers really has not done anything wrong and looks like a formidable team. The entire offseason, many criticized Carolina for not adding any pieces via free agency. The Panthers cut the all-time team receiving leader Steve Smith and did not add any weapons for Cam Newton to have at his disposal, which many people did not understand after the team was coming off of such a great season the prior year.

The Panthers had a solid win in their opener against the Buccaneers in which they held off a late comeback. Cam Newton was hurt the first week, and Carolina had to go with backup quarterback Derek Anderson who did a serviceable job. The Panthers knew they had to play a nasty game of football and won by playing great defense. 

In Carolina’s second game, Superman returned and they crushed the Lions. Although Cam Newton did not have the best game statistically, finishing with 281 yards and one touchdown, he did what he needed to do: Make big plays when needed and let his phenomenal defense take care of the rest.

It’s still a long season and any team realistically can win this division, but the Buccaneers, Saints and Falcons need to improve if they don’t want to see the first ever back-to-back winner of the NFC South.

Reach Staff Reporter Bradford Evans via e-mail.



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