State of the Division: NFC South

Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

After week two's slate of close, hard-fought games, the New Orleans Saints retain the top spot in the NFC South, with the Atlanta Falcons just one game behind, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Carolina Panthers tied for third.

Week two of the NFL season featured a down-to-the-wire division showdown for the New Orleans Saints against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, an Atlanta Falcons win over the St. Louis Rams that was closer than it should have been, and a late-game lead change bringing about a Carolina Panthers loss to the Bills in Buffalo.

The Falcons finished the first half against the Rams with a commanding 21 point lead. The second half would be a different story, with Atlanta's defense surrendering 14 unanswered points, giving the Rams a one-score deficit. Jason Snelling saved the day with an 11 yard touchdown run. The Rams would score once more, but Atlanta came away with a much-needed week two victory despite being impacted severely by injuries on both sides of the ball.

The Panthers fell prey to late game heroics from rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel, who engineered an 80 yard touchdown drive that culminated in a touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson with just 2 seconds remaining in regulation. The Bills won 24-23, and the Panthers are 0-2 to start the season.

The Saints visited the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay for a crazy game that featured a long weather delay. Two minutes into the fourth quarter, Drew Brees threw an interception, his second of the day, which was returned by Tampa Bay linebacker Mason Foster for a touchdown, giving the Bucs a 14-13 lead. A missed Rian Lindell field goal with just over a minute to play sealed the deal for New Orleans, who were very lucky in a close game against a division rival for the second week in a row. The Bucs join the Panthers at 0-2, while the Saints remain undefeated at 2-0.

There are a few things that stood out this week around the NFC South. Through two games, Matt Ryan leads the division's quarterbacks in most statistical categories.

QB Completions Attempts Percentage Yards TDs INT QBR
Matt Ryan 58 81 71.6% 678 4 1 107.9
Drew Brees 52 81 64.2% 679 3 3 87.4
Cam Newton 37 62 60.7% 354 3 1 86.4
Josh Freeman 24 53 45.3 335 2 2 63.0

Every NFC South team except for Carolina has a receiver or tight end in the top ten across the entire NFL for receiving yards at this point. Julio Jones is currently second in the league, behind Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson, with 258 yards and two touchdowns. Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson is fifth, with 231 yards, but zero touchdowns, and New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham is sixth with 224 yards and two touchdowns.

It may not feel like it to Falcons fans, but Cam Newton and Drew Brees are both taking more sacks than Matt Ryan. Newton has taken seven sacks so far this season, and Brees has taken six. Ryan has, through two weeks, been sacked five times.

The Saints stand alone at the top of the division, with a 2-0 record. The Falcons are currently in second place at 1-1, and the Bucs and the Panthers, both winless through two weeks, are tied for third in the NFC South.

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