What a long, strange week it has been. We’ve witnessed the full gamut of performances from the NFC South, including narrow games (Carolina), blowouts (New Orleans), and embarrassing losses (Atlanta and Tampa Bay). The standings reflect that chaos, with the Saints jumping up the rankings on the back of three straight wins. Quite frankly, I’m happy this week has finally come to an end.
Let’s take a closer look at the NFC South after the conclusion of Week 6.
NFC South Standings - Week 6
The Panthers remain on top after their defeat at the hands of the Eagles on Thursday Night Football. Carolina is a half-game ahead of New Orleans and Atlanta. Speaking of the Saints, they improved to 3-2 after holding off a late comeback attempt by the Lions. Atlanta blew a big lead and fell to 3-2, and are behind the Saints due to the divisional tiebreaker (Saints are 1-0, Falcons 0-0). The Buccaneers came back from being down big to make the score look respectable, but in truth they were dominated thoroughly by the Cardinals throughout the game.
Carolina Panthers 23 - Philadelphia Eagles 28
This was actually a pretty entertaining game that Philadelphia took control of just before halftime. A sloppy performance by the Eagles in terms of penalties (10 for 126) wasn’t enough for the Panthers, who struggled offensively throughout the night. Cam Newton threw a career-high 52 attempts, but also had three interceptions. Carolina’s running game basically consisted of Newton, who had 11 attempts for 71 yards. The other RBs combined for 16 attempts for 9 yards. That’s just plain putrid. LB Luke Kuechly left the game with what appeared to be a concussion, so his status will be worth monitoring going forward.
Detroit Lions 38 - New Orleans Saints 52
From the score, you might think the Saints had an offensive explosion against the apparently pretty poor Lions defense, but you’d be wrong. 21 of the Saints points came from defensive TDs, including two pick-sixes and a fumble recovery TD. Brees was actually pretty poor on the day, passing for only 186 yards and 2 TDs but also 2 INTs. The Lions were incredibly depleted by injuries on the offensive line and it showed—Stafford was sacked five times and was clearly still dealing with a nagging injury himself. New Orleans almost let the Lions back into the game late, but Stafford’s third pick of the day (and second pick-six) sealed it. The Saints are kind of an enigma at this point, but it’s clear they’re improving on offense and are no longer terrible on defense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 33 - Arizona Cardinals 38
This was a pretty strange game that saw the Bucs fall into a 24-0 hole at halftime. Jameis Winston was injured and forced to leave the game, though it appears it may be an injury he can play through going forward. Tampa’s defense is still a big problem, but they did manage to tighten up a bit after halftime. Backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick ran the offense decently, tossing 3 TDs and 2 INTs in a frantic fourth quarter comeback that saw the Bucs put up 27 points. We all know that this Tampa Bay offense has the pieces to be a good unit, but they haven’t been able to come together for a full game this season. As long as the defense stays this bad, particularly against the run (160 yards given up, 138 and 2 TDs to Adrian Peterson), the Buccaneers will have a tough time generating many wins.
What are your thoughts on the NFC South after six weeks? Who do you view as the biggest threat in the division? Is the Saints defense real or fraudulent? Can the Panthers sustain an offense with Cam as the only running threat?