Saints-Buccaneers Winner Has Inside Track to NFC South Title

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Atlanta Falcons, like the New Orleans Saints, are 1-1 in the NFC South, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a surprise 2-0 edge while the Panthers have a (less surprising) 0-2 hole they have to climb out of. After Sunday’s game between the Bucs and Saints, things could get a bit more interesting in the NFC South.

At the midpoint of the season, let’s look at who might have the inside track to win the division.

Atlanta Falcons (4-3 Overall; Home Record: 2-1; Road Record 2-2; Division Record: 1-1; Conference Record: 4-3)

Atlanta Falcons

Dirty Birds doing dirty work–or so we thought.
This season hasn’t been quite on par as predicted for the Atlanta Falcons, but after a win over the hot Detroit Lions (there’s a statement that hasn’t been used in a long time) and a match-up this week against the winless Indianapolis Colts, Matty Ice and his men are still in the fight for the NFC South. Yes, they still are yet to face the Saints, but they get a home dome New Year’s day game against the Bucs to end the regular season, and they’ll be looking for revenge—Tampa Bay beat them earlier on the road.

But here’s a good confidence boost coming off of the bye week: the Falcons are also the only team in their division with a 2-game win streak.

Carolina Panthers (2-6 Overall; Home Record: 2-3; Road Record: 0-3; Division Record: 0-2; Conference Record: 1-6)

Carolina Panthers

Yes Cam Newton has shut up those laptop hating naysayers, but his team is still bad. Unfortunately, being bad even though one of your players is really good doesn’t win you your division, unless this was a sympathy contest. Then Cam Newton’s fig newton soft team may not only win our tears, but our hearts. While the team seems like they can’t win on the road, they also seem to have forgotten that hey, it’s okay to protect your home turf, especially against a visiting team like the Minnesota Vikings that are just as bad.

With last week’s loss on a 31-yard field goal miss by kicker John Kasay, unfortunately things have gone a little bit more limp for this Carolina team, but hey cheer up. At least you can change the channel to two really good college basketball teams pretty soon.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-3 Overall; Home Record: 3-2; Road Record: 1-1; Division Record: 2-0; Conference Record: 3-3)

They got to go across the pond, only to return with a loss to the Chicago Bears, but these same Buccaneers also have a chance to be 3-0 in the division after this Sunday. With the expected return of LeGarrette Blount this week, the Buccaneers are ready to make some noise in a crucial game with the Saints. The squad may be the youngest in the NFL, but maybe they’ll mature just in time to pick up a win when it’s most needed.

New Orleans Saints (5-3 Overall; Home Record: 3-0; Road Record: 2-3; Division Record: 1-1 Conference Record: 2-3)

New Orleans Saints

After the Falcons early season woes, it seemed like the Saints would be the clear NFC South favorites, but last week’s lost cause of a game to the pitiful St. Louis Rams pushed back those hopes. Another setback? The team will most likely be without rookie Mark Ingram (who leads the team in rushing yards with 329 on the season) for the second week in a row due to a right heel injury.

A glaring deficiency in the Saints’ game may be their inability to stop their opponents’ running game. The Saints rank 23rd in the NFL by allowing 124.1 rushing yards per game. Not good when you have to face LeGarrette Blount and Atlanta’s Michael Turner twice each during the season. Maybe they’ll be able to run the Saints right out of getting a division lead.

The Saints are also on a little bit of a tough stretch—they get the Bucs, Falcons, Giants and Lions as their next four games.

Big Game of the Week: New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This couldn’t have been a better week for the Falcons to have their two biggest division competitors square off against each other. Assuming that Atlanta takes care of the Colts, they could leave in good position. The Bucs beat the Saints earlier last month, and Drew Brees threw three interceptions in that game. Expect him to bring his A game this time, though. Tampa Bay leads the series with an 11-9 edge (since 2001), and hopes to make it 12 and 9 after Sunday, but Bucs be warned—the Saints have a goose egg in the loss column when it comes to playing at home so far this season.

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