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NFC South Standings, Week 12: The Panthers are good, everyone else is horrendous

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Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The NFC South looks just as thoroughly mediocre as last year, assuming you choose to ignore the 11-0 Panthers atop the division. The Buccaneers and Falcons have the young pieces they need to make 2016 better and the Saints probably do not, but any way you slice it, this is a cakewalk for Carolina in 2015.

That's a shame after the way the Falcons started off and the way the Buccaneers charged back into the picture, but it's inevitable when you have one team that stands undefeated and three others who have major flaws. I really am bullish on Atlanta and Tampa Bay's futures, but because we don't live in the future just yet, we have to take a look at the division right now.

NFC South Standings

Carolina Panthers: 11-0
Atlanta Falcons: 6-5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 5-6
New Orleans Saints: 4-7

The Panthers probably can't stay undefeated, but they've answered every question to this point, and they're one of the few legitimate contenders in the NFL right now. I didn't want to come around on them, but they are a terrific football team, one I don't relish seeing in Atlanta (or in Carolina when the Falcons travel, for that matter). Give them their due.

The Falcons are still in the playoff hunt, but they're playing so poorly right now that you can forgive fans for lunging off the bandwagon and onto the asphalt. The defense is the chief reason to be encouraged, with Dan Quinn's unit providing at least solid play in every game this season, but the offense is an unmitigated disaster that will have to be fixed fast if Atlanta's going to hang in. I'm tired of sloppy Sundays, so let's hope for the best.

The Buccaneers could have pushed into the sixth seed in the NFC, or at least into the conversation, but Jameis Winston was sacked five times, the offense ground to a halt, and the Colts continued their improbable win streak with Matt Hasselbeck at the helm. Tampa Bay still needs some more seasoning, even if they should be really good sooner than later, sadly.

Finally, we have the Saints, who are awful. They didn't score a touchdown for the first time since 2005 against the lowly Texans, losing 24-6 and effectively dropping out of the playoff race. Huge changes are afoot in New Orleans, and the team that was always in the NFC South hunt may now be out of it for a couple of years as they retool and rebuild.