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NFC South Standings, Week 15: Atlanta and Tampa Bay separate from the pack

The Falcons are still holding on to a slim lead, but they did their part.

Atlanta Falcons v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Falcons’ win against Los Angeles tonight turned out to be incredibly important, given that the Buccaneers were able to hang on against the Saints and earn their eighth victory of the season. It’s increasingly apparent that the NFC South is going to be a dogfight between two teams, with the Saints and Panthers effectively dead in the water.

Let’s take a closer look at the standings.

NFC South Standings

Falcons: 8-5

Buccaneers: 8-5

Saints: 5-8

Panthers: 5-8

The Falcons won easily against the Rams, which was a lot of fun to watch, but more importantly they stayed just ahead of Tampa Bay in the race for the division. The Falcons have the 49ers, Saints, and Panthers, while the Bucs have the Cowboys, Saints, and Panthers coming up. I like the Falcons’ chances better, especially after they pulled off this beatdown on the road without Julio Jones or Mohamed Sanu.

The Buccaneers are getting this done with defense, which is odd. They have some of the pieces you need for a great offense and seemed likelier to win with that in 2016, but they’ve come on in recent weeks and are not troubling teams like the Saints, who typically have no problem scoring points. That’s a scary feature for a team on the cusp of a playoff berth, and we’ll have to hope they wilt in the coming weeks.

The Saints blew a golden opportunity to stay in the race and damage the Bucs, putting up an anemic effort on offense in this one and essentially dropping out of contention with the loss. For a team with cap woes and questions about its future, a losing season is not something they’re going to relish, but they’re obviously heading for one.

The Panthers, as mentioned last week, are done. They had a fine game today against the Chargers minus some major hiccups from Cam Newton, but they’re going to have to lick their wounds, improve on both sides of the ball, and try again in 2016. Super Bowl hangovers are real, y’all.