NFC South Recap, Week 9

The New Orleans Saints moon-walked to an easy victory over the Carolina Panthers, while the Atlanta Falcons secured pole position in the NFC South with a victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The good news for the Bucs? The Panthers are next on the schedule and licking their wounds.

Atlanta Falcons (6-2)

What went right? Atlanta withstood yet another Tampa Bay comeback attempt and held on for a 27-21 victory at home. Michael Turner scored two TDs to give the Falcons an early 14-point lead and the defense stuffed LeGarrette Blount on a fourth-down attempt that would have given the Bucs the lead with just over two minutes to play. With the victory, the Falcons remain in first place in the division and conference; both should be tightly contested races.

What went wrong? It's been going wrong all year -- the Falcons aren't putting opponents away when they have them on their heels. A big reason this week -- and cause for concern -- is the knee injury suffered by Roddy White. He tweaked the knee in the second quarter but managed to return in the second half. The question now is whether he can heal quickly and be ready to go on Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens.

What question needs to be answered? Should Falcons fans get their hopes up for late January? We saw how they stacked up against their division, but now we'll get to see just how good this team is against one of the best teams in the league. A win against the Ravens will put the NFL on notice that the Falcons are for real.

New Orleans Saints (6-3)

What went right? The schedule makers were kind enough to put the Panthers on the Saints' schedule the week before their bye. The Panthers managed a field goal on their first drive, but after that the Saints scored the next 34 points. Gregg Williams' defense got starting CBs Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter back from injury and New Orleans never let the Panthers in the end zone.

What went wrong? TE Jeremy Shockey had to be taken to a hospital for tests on his ribs and kidneys after getting hit while catching a touchdown in the first quarter. The tests were negative and Shockey will take the bye week to heal up and be ready when the Saints take on the Seattle Seahawks in two weeks.

What question needs to be answered? Are they back? Steamrolling the Panthers is no feat, but when you couple it with an impressive win against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, it looks like the defending champs may have some of last season's mojo.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-3)

What went right? This was the game in which Raheem Morris would find out if his team actually was the best in the NFC. While Morris found out the Bucs aren't the NFC's best, he also learned this team may not be that far away. To no one's surprise, the Bucs were in this game late and a humbling loss against a better team may go a long way towards building their psyche.

What went wrong? After the Bucs made their weekly comeback, they were knocking on the door late in the game. Then the combination of a questionable spot on a pass interference penalty; Josh Freeman's helmet transmitter dying; and Blount making the wrong cut on fourth-and-1 doomed the young Bucs and sent them to their third loss.

What question needs to be answered? Are they going to pout about it? Let's face it, this was a big loss for team that had a lot of things to prove to a lot of people. Luckily for the Bucs, they get to rebound with the Panthers at home. They need to put the loss behind them and beat the Panthers handily. As exciting as it may be, there is no reason that Freeman should have to lead a fourth-quarter comeback this week.



Which team will win the NFC South? Give your opinion 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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