It’s common knowledge in sports that, if you take care of your own business, you don’t have to worry about anybody else as far as the standings are concerned.
While this is entirely true, getting some help along the way is never a bad thing. This column will be completely dedicated to the results of the other three NFC South teams throughout the season, and hopefully we’ll be able to bask in their failures together.
The division is out of reach for the Falcons at this point, but let’s keep up with how the division foes are doing anyway.
Dallas Cowboys 13, New Orleans Saints 10 (TNF)
This was the best game of the week, in my bias opinion. The Saints went into Dallas — in the middle of a tight race with the Los Angeles Rams for the 1-seed — and stumbled over the hurdle that was a rampant Cowboys defense.
The Dallas defense talked the talk leading up to this game, and then they walked the walk with a national audience watching. They held the Saints scoreless throughout the entire first half, forcing three punts and a turnover on downs en route to a 13-0 lead at the break.
New Orleans answered back with a Field Goal to begin the third quarter and, following a Cowboys punt, a very dumb Randy Gregory roughing the kicker penalty on a Saints punt extended the drive and resulted in a Keith Kirkwood TD catch a few plays later.
Gregory would commit another very dumb offside penalty (lining up in the neutral zone) on a forced Drew Brees fumble which would have resulted in the Cowboys getting the ball at New Orleans’ 35-yard-line, one drive later.
The Dallas defense would hold firm, forcing another punt and later intercepting Brees with 2:16 left. A Marshon Lattimore pass interference in the end zone would effectively let the Cowboys kill the rest of the clock following that pic.
Brees hurt his MVP chances with a stinker — 127 passing yards, one touchdown and the crucial interception. Alvin Kamara was the leading rusher with just 34 yards, while Michael Thomas was the leading receiver with 40 yards.
Dak Prescott accounted for 248 passing yards and a touchdown. Ezekiel Elliot had 136 yards from scrimmage and a receiving touchdown, while Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper each went for 75+ receiving yards.
The days of Carolina’s 6-2 start to the season seem like a lifetime ago, as they’ve now lost four games in a row. The Buccaneers look rejuvenated with Jameis Winston at quarterback, meanwhile, and no longer share the division cellar with the Falcons.
Winston took his team 75 yards down the field and into the end zone on the first drive of the game, and added another three points on their second, following a Cam Newton interception.
From there, Tampa Bay would never relinquish the lead, although the Panthers would cut it to 10-7 a drive later. Following a series of possessions where neither team could get anything going, Newton would throw another interception with 1:16 left in the half, and Winston would capitalize by putting together another touchdown drive right before the break.
The Panthers would win the third quarter, 10-7, but then get derailed in the fourth courtesy of two more Newton interceptions and a turnover on downs. All three of those fourth quarter drives came while Carolina was within one possession.
Winston had another turnover-free game, as well as 249 passing yards and two touchdowns. He was also the team’s leading rusher with 48 rushing yards, although RB Peyton Barber did extend his scoring streak to three games. Chris Godwin was the leading receiver with 101 yards and a score.
Newton reached the 300 yards passing mark along with two touchdowns, but his four interceptions is the statistic of interest. Christian McCaffrey totaled 161 yards from scrimmage along with a receiving touchdown, while Curtis Samuel was the leading receiver with 88 yards. Greg Olsen re-injured his foot and is out for the season.
NFC South Standings after Week 13
1. New Orleans Saints (10-2 overall record; 2-1 divisional record) - Next at Buccaneers
2. Carolina Panthers (6-6 overall record; 1-2 divisional record) - Next at Browns
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7 overall record; 2-2 divisional record) - Next vs. Saints