Atlanta’s days of being atop the smoldering refuse heap that is the 2022 NFC South are over, sort of. With their loss Sunday and Tampa Bay’s win over the Rams, the two teams are tied, with the Buccaneers holding the tiebreaker thanks to their victory over our Falcons earlier this season.
That’s a short-term thing—Atlanta can take back sole possession at least briefly with a win Thursday night, and the Buccaneers have to play the surging Seahawks next—but it’s unfortunate given that Tampa Bay is annoying and we’ve been waiting a long time to see Atlanta hold the division crown. Given that every team here is struggling and only the Panthers seem to be awful enough to truly be out of it, chances are the NFC South will end up coming down to the wire, with the eventual winner possessing one of the worst records of any playoff team in the league. They will, I must emphasize, still be at least the #4 seed.
We’ll hope the Falcons are that team. In the meantime, let’s look at the standings for the week.
NFC South standings, Week 10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 4-5
Atlanta Falcons: 4-5
New Orleans Saints: 3-6
Carolina Panthers: 2-7
The danger with the Buccaneers, who have one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history (blergh) and plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, is that they’ve played hilariously inept football most of the season and have still lingered like a Taco Bell fart in a phone booth. Now they’re 4-5, coming off a confidence-boosting win where they actually looked competent in the closing minutes, and they could actually do something. Fortunately, their remaining schedule looks really, really difficult.
The Falcons still have a fairly straightforward slate, but simply aren’t playing well right now, having dropped two of three and only emerging with a win against the Panthers because of dumb luck and extreme grittiness. Like the Buccaneers, they’re still very much in this thing, and unlike the Bucs, they’ve played fairly solid football throughout much of the season. They’re not going away, but they badly need the bye to sort some things out.
The Saints have been making a little more noise of late, but the Ravens are ultimately still a good team and New Orleans is still ultimately not, so Monday Night Football went about as you’d expect. I’m not going to bet against the Saints hanging around—they have an annoying habit of doing that—but they don’t appear to have a quarterback and their roster is just a bit of a mess, and they’re a full game behind Tampa Bay and Atlanta right now.
Carolina stinks, but they pushed the Falcons to the brink two weeks ago and will try to steal a win this Thursday night. They’ve fired position coaches, lost players to injuries or simply shipped them off, and are drifting around like an empty canoe in a wind-whipped lake, but they have just enough talent to play spoiler and annoyance the rest of the way. There’s a very real chance that they’ll end the season with a top five pick and a chance to pick up a franchise quarterback, potentially leaving them in better shape than everyone else in the NFC South, but we’re a long ways away from seeing that play out.
So that’s the NFC South as it stands heading into Week 10. We’ll see where the Falcons wind up after Thursday night.