NFC South Review: Week 4
Remember when everyone thought a .500 record would be good enough to win the NFC South? Well, there are 6 teams that are 4-0, and 2 of them are in the NFC South, the Panthers and the Falcons. Soft schedules for each of these teams are certainly part of the equation here, but you have to think both of these teams are good enough to break .500, especially considering the Falcons schedule never gets very tough. The Saints managed to keep their season alive in a thrilling game against a Dallas team that desperately needs to get healthy. Meanwhile, Winston and the Bucs got stomped. But, the way I see it, everybody takes a beating sometimes. And, it’s really about how you take it and what you learn.
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 37-23
This game was really strange. There were disastrous weather conditions, an unreal touchdown, Cam threw for 124 yards in a big win, meanwhile Winston hard 4 picks while throwing for a career high 287 yards and lost. The game was pretty close in the first half, then the disastrous second half happened, and it wasn’t even as close as the final score indicated, if that makes any sense. I told you this game was really strange. The Bucs had a chance to pull within 4 at the half, but their rookie kicker missed a field goal. Then, they kept giving the ball away and were dominated, but scored a meaningless garbage time touchdown to bring themselves within two touchdowns. Winston’s line should’ve looked worse, as he scored one touchdown and picked up about 80 yards on the last drive where I don’t think anyone except Vincent Jackson owners were paying attention. It was a nice confidence boost, and he needs to pick himself up and learn from these games. Winston and the Bucs were facing one of the best defenses in the league and played in bad conditions, so he should be given some slack.
Speaking of defense, the Panthers really bring it on that side of the ball. It’s important to remember they haven’t been playing great offenses, but they have dominated. Josh Norman continues to be amazing. He won NFC defensive player of the month for September, and seems to be looking for another award this month. Norman had two interceptions, one of which was run back for a touchdown. Furthermore, they’ve been playing without Charles Johnson and Luke Kuechly, although Klein has stepped up big to fill Kuechly’s shoes. Cam didn’t play great, but did what Winston wasn’t able to do, limit turnovers. He threw zero interceptions, but did lose a fumble. His maturity level seems to be rising, as he is not trying to do to much, letting his defense dictate the pace of the game, while he makes plays when he can. Carolina enters a bye week in a good position, but will need to prepare as their schedule over the next four weeks is tougher, playing the Seahawks, Eagles, Colts, and then the Packers.
Fantasy Implications – Cam had a down week passing, but continues to be a valuable fantasy asset. He ran for 51 yards, and still threw for two touchdowns. Those are good numbers for a quarterback, and his consistency make him incredibly valuable. Ted Ginn has stepped up big, and become a legitimate fantasy option. He’s always had a lot of talent, but never been able to transfer it to the field, largely because of bad hands. I’d be happy to hold him in a league, because he has great speed, downfield ability, and is getting plenty of targets. Greg Olsen had another bad game, but saw the most targets of any Panthers player. The conditions were bad and Cam only completed 11 passes, so I will give Olsen another pass, but am beginning to feel a little concerned. I still would project him as a top 5 tight end the rest of the way, given his talent and opportunities, but don’t feel as confident as I did a couple weeks ago.
Jonathan Stewart continues to post mundane numbers. He had 5.0 YPC, but only had 10 rushes. I just don’t expect much from him, and wouldn’t be confident using him as an RB2, because he isn’t going to get a lot of rushing touchdowns. Cameron Artis-Payne made his first significant appearance, but didn’t do much, and put up all his yards in garbage time. I still feel he could be an interesting stash, but be prepared to hold him. Same goes for Funchess.
Tampa players looked a little more interesting than they have previously. I still wouldn’t want anything to do with Winston, but Jackson looked ok. He did most of his damage on that last garbage drive though, so it might be a good time to sell high on him. He had an incredible 15 targets, so his opportunities are still high, which is always a positive. Doug Martin also had a good game against a tough defense, posting 106 yards and a TD on 20 carries. Those are numbers that make you optimistic about his future. Mike Evans was disappointing, but I still think he’ll be good going forward. Maybe not as good as preseason projections, but still a worthy WR2.
Houston Texans at Atlanta Falcons – 21-48
It’s pretty amazing that this game also wasn’t as close as the final score. The Falcons absolutely dominated the Texans as they have become one of the more explosive offenses in the game. As with the Panthers, they haven’t played anybody significant yet, but it’s hard to argue with their performance so far. They always had an excellent passing game, and now the running game is stout as well. Tevin Coleman was doing well, and Freeman has exploded since he got hurt. He had 3 more touchdowns this week. When they can pair a running game with Julio and Matt Ryan, the Falcons are dangerous.
The defense played really well against the anemic Texans, and had some help as right tackle Derek Newton punched the ball out of Foster’s hands for a fumble in a hilarious play. Trufant continued his excellent play as he scored a touchdown as well. The Falcons look for real, and have a cake schedule for most of the season. They really only face a few tough opponents in Carolina, Indianapolis, and Minnesota. With their easy schedule, I’m changing my tune and honestly see them taking the South, but I’m still not a total believer in their defense, and expect them to have trouble with Carolina. If they can win just one of those games though, and maintain their pace, then they should be able to walk into the playoffs, at least as a wild card.
Fantasy Implications – Julio did almost nothing this game, but there’s no reason to be concerned. This game was over at halftime. Expect him to continue to do Julio things. Freeman has emerged as an excellent option, but I expect Coleman to eat into his carries a little bit. I wouldn’t hesitate to continue to start him, but obviously he won’t keep up this pace. If Coleman is playing this week, I’d be starting him as well. Their line is improved, and nobody can stack the box against the Falcons. Ryan is posting his best QB rating and Y/A, and is on pace for the most yards of his career. Perhaps, he’s taking that next step. Hankerson has been drop prone, but with Roddy White doing nothing, he’s turned into a really good gamble. He actually had a solid game on Sunday. Again, this offense is exactly what you’re looking for when picking fantasy players. Anyone who may contribute is worthy of consideration.
Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints – 20-26
The Saints finally joined the party in the NFC South by picking up their first win, but they didn’t make it easy on themselves. They missed a potentially game winning field goal late in the 4th quarter, but won the coin toss and finished with a bang. Spiller finally got some love catching Brees’ 400th TD pass for 80 yards. Brees was efficient, but still wasn’t able to get the ball downfield very much, which is troubling. Not to mention they played a Cowboys team that isn’t very good, because they’re so banged up. The Cowboys continued to suffer hard breaks, as Lance Dunbar tore his ACL.
Brandin Cooks wasn’t a factor again, and Spiller pretty much only had the big play at the end. Not that it’s meaningless, but they need to get him the ball more. At least Ingram continues to look good, posting 128 total yards, but had no touchdowns. The defense was solid, and it was the first time the Saints had Ellerbe, Jairus Byrd, and Keenan Lewis. If they can keep up that solid defense and finally make adjustments for the offense, then they could make a run. I don’t see it with their talent level and the schedule they have when compared to the Falcons. But, they kept hope alive, and perhaps that final huge play from Spiller will motivate Payton to utilize him more.
Fantasy Implications – Brees had a good return, and can definitely be a useful option going forward. I don’t expect him to return to top 3 levels or anything, but can be a solid QB1. Ingram is the best fantasy option on that team, and has been really good after blooming a little late in his career. Hopefully, Spiller gets going after that huge touchdown. He could be a top PPR option going forward, if they utilize him in the correct manner. That has been a big “if” so far though. Khiry had another touchdown, but didn’t do much else. Like Artis-Payne, he’s a solid stash option, but not much else right now. If you’re totally desperate, he’s had a touchdown the last two weeks. That is truly living on a prayer though. Cooks can’t seem to get going. I wouldn’t start him, but should be held on to if you can afford it. Willie Snead has become a candidate for the top receiving option in New Orleans. He’s definitely worth a pick up, again, if you have room. The receiver situation probably won’t get sorted out for a few weeks at least. But, there could be tremendous rewards, considering Brees is a solid QB with high upside, the Saints will be playing behind often, and have a solid run game to keep defenses honest.