They're doing everything they can, of course. They just keep winning, and they've already dispatched each team once this season in messy fashion. I'd call that kicking destiny out of a moving car and piloting your own course down the highway of fate, myself.
Unfortunately, the Saints and Bucs aren't buying into the narrative here. The Bucs continue to find ways to win despite a middling point differential this season, and the Saints actually appear to be picking up momentum as the season goes on. Both are 7-3 and within striking distance of the divisional crown, which means no cruise control for the Falcons. Bummer.
Let's take a quick tour of the division anyways. The lead is secure, for at least one more week.
New Orleans Saints, 7-3
Unfortunately, the Saints are getting healthy at the right time.
Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush are coming back, and in the meantime Chris Ivory and his incredible knockout shoulder are getting the job done. The Saints very narrowly avoided a couple of losses earlier this season that would've given the Falcons a comfortable lead over them, but the time to dwell on that is past. Atlanta's just going to have to take care of business the rest of the way.
They'll also have to hope Drew Brees has another miracle baby, since that's apparently the only thing that can slow his ineffable roll.
Tampa Bay Bucs, 7-3
This has to end eventually, right? The Bucs can't possibly ride this motley crew of rookies and fading veterans to the promised land, can they?
All I know is that every week the Bucs hang in there is another week of shot nerves for me. The Falcons can take care of the Bucs, even on the road, but they're not showing signs of the inevitable collapse I've been hoping for. The addition of LaGarette Blount is taking them to new heights, legal problems for Mike Williams aside.
That said, as numerous readers have noted, the Bucs aren't playing like an elite team. They're sliding by them, week after week, and have barely scored more points than they've allowed. It's the sign of a tough squad, but not one built for a deep playoff run. Stranger things have happened, but I believe the Bucs are headed for a rough ride in the last few weeks. Please tell me I'm right.
Carolina Panthers, 1-9
The sooner this miserable season is over, the sooner the Panthers can begin to heal. Brian St. Pierre starting off the street? Ye gods.
New Orleans: 11-5
Tampa Bay: 9-7