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NFC South Report: 2021, Week 2

The Panthers are undefeated; the Saints, not so much.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The NFC South has two undefeated teams, just like we, er, all expected.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers snatched a close margin away from the Falcons late with three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to walk away with a 48-25 win, which you already know about and maybe have hurled multiple expletives about at your ceiling.

The other two teams in the division, the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, met in Carolina for a contest. It was, surprisingly, the Panthers who stood victorious, smacking down the ‘Aints with fury. Matt Rhule is off to a great start of his tenure.

Carolina Panthers

Quarterback Sam Darnold is playing some of his best football of his career with the Panthers, which might either be an early-season mirage or a sign that this Panthers coaching staff is maximizing his potential right now. He threw for 305 yards, two touchdowns and a pick Sunday in a 26-7 win over the Saints. The Panthers being undefeated is a bit surprising, but we’ll see how they do as the year goes on.

Rhule has always been hailed as a teambuilder, but it’s on this team to keep Darnold at this pace. If Joe Brady keeps getting this kind of production from an assumed bust, he’ll be a head coach next winter with another NFL team (no, not ours, Arthur Smith is fine, relax).

New Orleans Saints

Well, the honeymoon period with the Jameis Winston Saints appears to be over, at least for this week. The Saints saw Winston revert back to a pumpkin, only throwing 111 yards and two picks against a stout Panthers secondary. Their offense couldn’t do much of anything Sunday, last week’s drubbing of the Green Bay Packers now feeling like a distant memory. If this means the Saints really do suck this year, Falcons/Saints is going to be an ugly mess. It is only Week 2 and we’ve now seen both ends of the ruler for New Orleans, so it’s smart not to get ahead of ourselves.

As of now the Panthers and Bucs are tied at the top of the division, the Saints are third and the lowly Falcons are at the bottom. That’s probably not going to change unless the Falcons start figuring out things sooner than later. Games against the Giants and Jets may help.