NFC South Review: Week 16
By Robert Knarr NFC South
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons: 13-20
The Panthers bid for perfection was stopped cold last week. They were dominated by the Atlanta Falcons in nearly every aspect of the game. The Falcons gave up an early touchdown, but then only allowed two field goals the rest of the way. A good pass rush allowed the Falcons to keep Cam off balance. The secondary also performed well, as Trufant and Alford stepped up their game.
The offense stepped up their game as well. Matt Ryan was much better, throwing for 306 yards, 1 TD, and most importantly 0 interceptions. Ryan was able to convert many third downs, and ate up a ton of clock on their long drives. Julio Jones exploded with 9 receptions for 178 yards and a TD. His 70-yard TD was the play of the game. He grabbed the ball over Kuechly as the safety fell down, and ran into the end zone. The Falcons have made a lot of progress since last season, but still need to do some work to compete next year.
The Panthers winning streak came to an end, and they deserved to lose. The entire team appeared disinterested and the play calling was questionable. The only player who performed well was Kawann Short who continues to show that he’s an elite DT. The defensive ends weren’t able to provide pressure on the QB, the secondary allowed too much separation, and the offensive line didn’t give Cam enough time. Additionally, Cam made many poor throws, playing his worst game of the season. Finally, I’m not sure what Shula was thinking when he decided to give the running backs only 12 carries. Cameron Artis-Payne had 49 yards on 5 carries. He appeared on the verge of breaking out, but was hardly given the ball. The Falcons soft under belly was their rush defense, yet Shula gave up on that part of the offense despite it being a close game.
I’m not sure if this game was an indication of the Panthers’ weaknesses, or if they just had a bad game. I’m inclined to say the latter, because the team looked lackadaisical, and previously crushed the Falcons 38-0. Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team with so many good players, and none of them stood out. However, it’s also clear that the pass rush is lacking, because the Panther’s defensive ends have 1 sack in their last 5 games. Furthermore, losing Benwikere hurts the secondary. The Panthers need to shore up their defense before the start of the playoffs or they will have a short postseason.
Fantasy Implications – Most fantasy seasons have ended by now. However, for those that play the final week of the season I’ll do a quick breakdown. They will be attempting to lock down the No. 1 seed, thus securing home field advantage. That means most of their players should be starting. Cam and Olsen really struggled, but will come back strong next week. Look for Stewart to return and have a big game as well. Ginn will most likely recover from last week’s debacle, and put up at least decent numbers. Julio Jones was a monster out there last week. While, the Falcons aren’t really playing for anything, I wouldn’t be hesitant about starting him or Freeman. However, I’d stay away from Ryan despite a good game last week.
Jacksonville Jaguars at New Orleans Saints: 27-38
The Saints may not have been playing for anything, but they showed their toughness, beating a Jacksonville team with a good offense. Brees injury to his foot was a concern coming into the game, but he dominated a feeble Jacksonville defense. He threw for 412 yards and 3 TD’s. Despite a rough start, Brees has had another solid season. He now has over 4500 yards and over 30 TD’s on the season. This is the third time a QB has reached those benchmarks and had a losing season. The only 2 previous times this has happened in NFL history was the 2014 Saints and the 2012 Saints. That’s right Brees and the Saints account for the only 3 teams who have had a QB throw for 4500 yards and 30 TD’s while having a losing season. That illustrates how terrible the defense has been.
The Saints defense prevented the Saints from having any hopes of reaching the playoffs. Allowing 43 passing TD’s, the Saints defense broke the previous record of 40, which was set by the 1963 Denver Broncos in a 14 game season. Brees and the receivers were able to get on track and put together a good offense, but they had no hopes of overcoming such a terrible defense. I’m not sure they’ll be able to fix the defense in the offseason, but they have a good young player in Stephone Anthony. He has over 100 tackles, and will definitely contend for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Fantasy Implications – Since, the Saints played all their players last week, I would assume they will continue to play them in the last week. You should start Brees and Cooks, but be aware that the Falcons defense is pretty solid. Hightower has been starting in place of Ingram and has resuscitated his career. He had 122 yards on 27 carries and 2 TD’s. Ben Watson hasn’t done much of anything for a while, and I wouldn’t play him in the final week.
Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 26-21
The Bucs season is also over, but they’d like to show that their team has a bright future. They’re not rolling over, because each game is a learning experience for Winston and the other young players. Winston and the Bucs struggled against the Bears. The game wasn’t as close as the final score indicates, because Winston threw a Hail Mary in the final seconds. They were able to stay relatively close throughout the game, but three turnovers crushed their hopes for a win. The Bears also held Doug Martin to only 49 yards, which is impressive.
The Bucs need to improve their team in the offseason, but they have a good young core, especially on offense. Winston was able to make better decisions by the 2nd half of the season, and Evans avoided the dreaded sophomore slump. If they make a few savvy moves and have a solid draft, they could compete next year.
Fantasy Implications – The Bucs have a couple stars on their offense in Evans and Martin. I would continue to start them in the final week, because I don’t see them sitting those guys. Winston, has been solid, but no worthy of a start in most cases as a fantasy QB. None of their other players have been worth consideration, except maybe Vincent Jackson, but he won’t be playing.