NFC South Recap, Week 8

Sunday was no-fun day for Panthers fans. Carolina's winning streak ended at one game, while no one else in the NFC South tasted defeat. Things will get more interesting in Week 9, as two inter-division contests will shake up the standings.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-2)

What went right? In what has quickly become a trend, Josh Freeman led the Bucs to a fourth-quarter comeback to upend the Arizona Cardinals. Steal of the draft Mike Williams and undrafted rookie RB LeGarrette Blount each contributed over 100 yards and a TD. CB Aqib Talib, in just his third season, had two interceptions and returned one for a score. This young team is not thinking about a bright future; it's thinking about right now.

What went wrong? They shouldn't have had to come back in this one. The Bucs surrendered a 17-point lead, aided by Gerald Hayes returning a Blount fumble for a TD. It would be easy to say that this team hasn't beaten anyone good, but they deserve praise because wins are tough to come by in the NFL. Coming from behind is nice, but playoff-caliber teams won't let opponents back in games.

What question needs to be answered? Can you prove it? Coach Raheem Morris will tell anyone who will listen that his team is the best in the NFC. We'll find out just how right he is on Sunday when the Bucs travel to Atlanta to play the 5-2 Atlanta Falcons.

New Orleans Saints (5-3)

What went right? The Saints righted the ship in front of a national audience. Drew Brees threw for 305 yards and two TDs and the Saints beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the leaders of the supposedly superior AFC. Gregg Williams' defense confused and attacked Ben Roethlisberger, keeping the Steelers' offense out of the end zone until early in the final quarter.

What went wrong? Injuries, injuries, injuries. The Saints started the game without their top three cornerbacks, only to lose a fourth, rookie Patrick Robinson, early in the first quarter. This team needs to get through this week's game in Charlotte without anyone else getting hurt. After that, they get their bye week to heal.

What question needs to be answered? Is this team ready to catch fire? Assuming Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas come back soon, this offense could reassume last year's form. It's shaping up to be a very interesting three-team race in the NFC South.

Atlanta Falcons (5-2)

What went right? Aside from someone getting injured or arrested, not much can go right or wrong when a team is on a bye. For the Falcons, the schedule makers helped them out. Any team that gets an early bye would gladly trade it for a one as late as Week 8 if for no other reason than to heal.

What went wrong? Both the Bucs and Saints won to keep pace with the Falcons.

What question needs to be answered? Who's got the juice? The Bucs think it's them; the Falcons think it's them. Someone is taking a giant step forward this week when they collide in Atlanta.



Who will win the NFC South? Talk about it inside the message boards.




Michael Stolp is a graduate of Wilkes University with a degree in Communications. He grew up in Piscataway, N.J., and recently relocated to Charlotte, NC. To follow his personal blog, click here.


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