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NFC South Standings, Week 7: Atlanta’s on top again and again

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Goodness, we love first place.

Atlanta Falcons v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

For yet another week, Atlanta’s on top of the NFC South, which has as much to do with the division being putrid as it does their sustained excellence in 2016. Let’s take a look at the standings.

NFC South Standings

Falcons: 4-2

Saints: 2-3

Buccaneers: 2-3

Panthers: 1-5

Atlanta lost to the Seahawks, as we’ve discussed endlessly the last two days, but they’re still the class of the division and one of the better teams in the NFC this year. They’re the odds-on favorites to win the NFC South.

The Saints are, as our esteemed beat reporter Jeanna Thomas noted, trash, but still the second best team in the NFC South. Their defense bled to death on the field against Carolina, but the offense was good enough to get them the win regardless, as it has been so often in recent years. Being the Saints, they’re probably not going away until late in the season, even if their long-term outlook is pretty dim.

I don’t know what to do with the Buccaneers. There’s no question this is a more talented team than the product on the field has shown, but they make so many dumb mistakes, they have a kicker with shot confidence who has been a critical piece of the team, and the defense never seems to perform as well as you’d think. With the Panthers all but finished, Tampa Bay is the likeliest team to challenge Atlanta, but they’re going to have to get it going sooner than later.

The Panthers are all but finished. Perhaps these words will seem dumb down the line when the Panthers rally spectacularly and sneak into the playoffs, but I’m dubious of that, because this is a bad football team playing bad football. I’m not sure that 2015 was a fluke, but I am sure that Carolina learned all the wrong lessons from that season, jettisoning their best cornerback, ignoring the needs along the offensive line, and doubling down on adding pieces to an already strong defensive line. They’re not as bad as they’ve looked this year—they still have Cam Newton and a strong front seven—but they’re probably cooked for 2016, which is good news for the Falcons’ chances of winning the NFC South.