NFC South Review: Week 2

By Robert Knarr

Another exciting week has gone by, and the NFC South already seems to be getting clearer.  Although, I’m sure there will be some interesting twists and turns ahead of us, it’s beginning to look as though the Falcons and Panthers will be competing for the division.  The Saints look terrible, and the Bucs did win a game, but are still working on their rebuild.  Everything’s unfolding exactly as I predicted in my offseason reviews.  Unfortunately, that’s not at all accurate, but let’s move on to the games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints: 26-19

Tampa Bay BuccaneersNew Orleans Saints

The Saints looked pretty bad again, and Jameis Winston made some nice improvements for Tampa Bay’s first win of the 2015 season. Chalking up a win is something the Bucs weren’t able to do until week 4 last year.  The worry surrounding the Saints is growing very quickly, and although it may explain some of his poor play in week 2, that compounded when it was revealed that Drew Brees was injured.  As someone who picked the Saints to slide into wild card conversation this year, I’ve already started rethinking my outlook.  The defense is worse than I thought (losing Gallete didn’t help), and the offense hasn’t been able to make up for the loss of Jimmy Graham.  I still like that trade for them, but wonder why they didn’t address their receiver issues more during the offseason.  Trades do not happen in a vacuum, and it’s hard to understand the Graham trade when they don’t try to plug the hole created by his departure.  However, Brees’ injury does not seem to be serious, and I expect to see him out there Sunday.

It’s not too late for them to turn this around, but panic is waiting around the corner.

Meanwhile, the rebuild of the Buccaneers looks to be on track.  I still don’t see them competing for the division this year, but the competition isn’t too stiff, and at least they’ve improved from 2014.  After getting blown up the first week, the Bucs and Winston looked solid.  Modest improvements are what the team should look for throughout the year.  They have a lot of young players, who simply need to get better as the year progresses.  Winston ran for and threw a touchdown, completing 14 of 21, without an interception.  There are two important issues here.  First, throwing zero picks is a big deal for any rookie quarterback.  Second, the rushing touchdown exhibits his versatility and potential danger to defenses.  The offensive line looked better, and so did the defense.  The line is going to be a key for them, after drafting two lineman directly after Winston.

Fantasy implications – I’m beginning to worry about Drew Brees, and at this point am hoping I simply don’t have to replace him, never mind banking on him being a dangerous weapon.  He played a lot of the game hurt, which contributed to his poor play, but that team needs someone to emerge in the receiver corps other than Brandin Cooks.  Actually, Cooks has been pretty disappointing, and I beginning to be concerned about him too.  It’s early, so I wouldn’t give up on either of them, but it’s best to start preparing a contingency plan.  Ingram has been alright, but is losing a fair amount of snaps to Khiry Robinson.  It may get worse for him with Spiller returning.  Honestly, I wouldn’t be too happy about owning anyone in this backfield, except Spiller in a PPR league who can be exceptionally good in that format, despite the crowded backfield.  Tampa lost their potential breakout tight end, Seferian-Jenkins for 4-6 weeks.  That is a real shame after his first game was so outstanding, and he can probably be dropped in many formats.  Winston is a decent QB2 option who will have good and bad games going forward.  Heck, this week he’s even in the running for Rookie of the Week:

Mike Evans play was also not very good, only getting 3 targets, continuing the trend of bad sophomore years for wideouts.  However, he is returning from a hammy injury, and health permitting, should be fine going forward.  Vincent Jackson continues to see a fair amount of targets, and made it into the endzone.  Doug Martin also has concern, considering he lost 2 fumbles, and hasn’t been spectacular otherwise.  Perhaps, he can put things together coming up.

Houston Texans at Carolina Panthers: 17-24

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers receivers played better, and Cam made the play of the week for the highlight reel in this tough matchup between two good defenses.  Newton truly looked like Superman flipping into the end zone, and was the difference maker in the game  Also, the offensive line was able to relatively contain J.J. Watt, and looks good enough going forward.  Panthers receivers improved from last week, when they all looked like children playing tee-ball trying to catch fly balls.  But, it’s pretty clear they miss Benjamin a lot and were a team poorly equipped to absorb a blow like that.  Josh Norman continues to play well and has really helped turn this secondary around.  The Texans miss Arian Foster, and probably don’t have a good enough offense to contend this year, unless he comes back really strong.

Fantasy Implications – Olsen has been mostly absent so far, but had a better game this week.  I still think he’ll be fine, considering the lack of targets for the Panthers.  Cam has shown the ability to be an effective fantasy option, even without good throwing options, largely because of his amazing running ability.  Jonathan Stewart hasn’t been that good so far, but considering the way defenses stack the box, it’s not all his fault.  At least, he has a favorable matchup next week against the Saints.  Other than that, there aren’t any exciting players for the Panthers.  Keep an eye on Cameron Artis-Payne as the season progresses as the rookie running back might begin to be utilized in their ground heavy approach.  However, he has done nothing yet and definitely shouldn’t be anything more than a stash option.

Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants: 24-20

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons are already surprising people, looking really good so far.  They haven’t had tough match ups, and are fortunate to face an ailing Cowboy’s team next week, but still look much improved.  The defense is still suspect, but is getting the job done.  The defense is the focus for the Falcons, as they still gave up a lot of big plays, but don’t need to be too stout with their offense consistently dominating.  A head coach can make a big difference for an NFL team, and it appears Quinn is doing that with the Falcons.  The offense is doing it’s usual thing, and Julio Jones continues to be unstoppable.  The ground game was even looking better for the Falcons, until Coleman got hurt.  Hopefully he’ll only be out for a couple games.  With a fairly weak division, the Falcons can definitely contend for the title, considering their fast start and improvements around the team.  The Giants lost another heartbreaker, but at least Odell Beckham Jr. got on track with a big game.  They’ll need to figure out the 4th quarter, and get better play from Eli if they’re going to contend.  Luckily, their division has plenty of problems of their own.

Fantasy Implications – I don’t really need to say something about Julio Jones every week.  If you own him, and he’s starting, then play him.  Unfortunately, he narrowly missed a touchdown, but the guy is unbelievable.  Matt Ryan is looking good as well, had a great game, but is still looking to take that last step into an elite quarterback.  The big news is Tevin Coleman getting hurt, which is a major bummer.  Freeman can be picked up, but don’t expect a lot, as Coleman is a superior runner.  Hopefully, he heals up quickly.  Roddy White’s star is fading, but should be a decent option going forward.  I’d be a little concerned about his lack of targets, but wouldn’t freak out just yet.  He won’t light anyone up, but in the pass heavy offense should post respectable numbers.

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