NFC South Review: Week 3

By Robert Knarr

The Panthers and Falcons keep on winning, the Saints keep on losing, and the Bucs continue to rebuild, bringing up a few interesting questions.  How legitimate are the Panthers and Falcons?  Are they mere divisional contenders, deep playoff contenders, or Super Bowl contenders?  Also, are the Saints in danger of having to trade Brees and do a total rebuild?  Should they hold on to hope and attempt to contend this year?  Can they just retool next year, and be viable again? Personally, I’d say the Saints are done this year, but perhaps can retool and be good next year.  I just don’t see them with the talent to get back into it this year, especially with Brees being hurt, and the competition in the division getting better.  As far as the Panthers and Falcons, they have a shot to go deep into the playoffs, but they need a lot to break right for them.  Both teams have had easy schedules, but also should get better as the year goes on, health permitting.  The Panthers and Falcons are fascinating.  They’re like two sides of a coin, or yin and yang, or some other garbage cliche about being polar opposites.  The Falcons dominate offense while doing just enough on D, and the Panthers dominate on defense, while just getting by on offense.  It’ll be interesting to see which team prevails.

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers: 22-27

New Orleans SaintsCarolina Panthers

Josh Norman showed up big again, dominating highlights with a game saving interception.  The secondary has gone from being their biggest weakness last year, to a tremendous strength.  The Panthers might struggle a bit on the D-line with Johnson out, but just traded for Allen in what I think is a smart low-risk move.  The defense needs Kuechly back to play at an elite level, but can still get the job done.  Cam playing at an elite level makes all the difference.  He threw for 315 yards, and made big plays late in the game.  Olsen finally showed up as well.

The Saints actually got good play from McCown, and had a chance to steal this game away.  Their defense played alright.  The team is still missing that big playmaker on offense though.  They’ve been close in a couple of losses, and aren’t a terrible team.  However, they’ve dug themselves a hole that’s probably too deep to get out of.  Maybe if Brees comes back, and the team steps up big in the next couple of weeks, they can make a solid push.  But, I just don’t see it happening.  Brandin Cooks had a better game, and I think he’ll begin to break out in the next couple of weeks.  Ingram had another good game, but this team needs Spiller to step up and be that difference maker.

Fantasy Implications – Olsen came around with a big game, and played like we all knew he was capable.  Expect him to play well, and do what he should the rest of the season.  Cam is playing like a top 10 quarterback, and may be taking that next step.  His rushing ability has returned this season, because he’s healthy.  Last week he looked more efficient, and continues to be the center of this offense.  Devin Funchess had a big catch in the 4th quarter, his only one.  However, he received high praise, and could possibly step up and take a larger role in this offense going forward, considering his high draft price, and lack of options for Cam.  They could certainly use a big guy like him in the offense.  I wouldn’t roster him, but would keep an eye on his value and playing time.  Khiry Robinson continues to see playing time, and make use of it.  If you have room on your roster, you could do worse than stashing him.  Just don’t expect much as long as Ingram is healthy and playing well.  Spiller hardly played, but expect that to change in the future.  They should be dumping the ball off to him several times a game, and getting him involved all they can.  Cooks played well, and I still think he’ll be a good fantasy asset this season, especially if Brees comes back strong.

Atlanta Falcons at Dallas Cowboys: 39-28

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons continue to impress, winning another big game, as they kept pace with the Carolina Panthers.  Similarly to the Panthers, the Falcons game has holes, and looks sloppy at times.  However, the offense is incredible.  Coach Quinn has shown the ability to make adjustments and get enough production from his defense.  The Falcons should definitely challenge the Panthers all season for the divisional crown, and could even play well into the playoffs, if they can figure out their defense.  The team came out looking awful, getting run all over by the Cowboys.  They showed how bad their defense can be.  They give up big plays, and have several holes, while playing a soft schedule.  However, they have to be given credit for going 3-0. Julio Jones continues to be unstoppable.

The Cowboys aren’t very good without Romo.  Weeden needs to step up, or they need to find another option.  He can hardly do anything other than dump the ball off, especially without Dez.  Luckily, their offensive line is still really good, allowing them to run well, and provide protection for their quarterback.  I see Weeden only getting one more shot.  If he doesn’t step up and make some throws downfield, then he’s going to be benched for the recently traded for Matt Cassel.  This team absolutely folded in the second half.  They were unable to contain Freeman, Julio, and Matt Ryan, and were also unable to keep them off the field, because of their inept offense.  This is a troubling combination.

Fantasy Implications – Julio and Matt Ryan continue to play well and dominate.  Nothing else needs to be said about them really.  However, the emergence of Devonta Freeman was big news, particularly because he had played so poorly thus far.  This is not good news for Tevin Coleman owners, but expect them to at least split carries upon his return at this point.  Freeman should definitely be owned for the time being, especially in PPR leagues as he excels in the passing game.  I’m not sure how this works out, but think Colmenan is the better back.  However, he will probably miss another game or so.  Whoever ends up dominating the carries could be tremendously valuable, because the Falcons score a ton of points, and defenses aren’t able to stack the box against them.  As far as the Cowboys, the offense isn’t the same with Weeden playing.  This is actually not a terrible thing if you own Dunbar or Randle.  Dunbar is really valuable in PPR leagues, as Weeden dumped the ball off to him 10 times for 100 yards last week.  He should continue to be valuable, but keep an eye on this situation, as their offense expects to change in the coming weeks.  Randle has emerged as the lead back, and still has a lot of value, running behind that great line, and getting a lot of touches with the poor QB play.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Houston Texans: 9-19

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay and Jameis Winston continue to show they have a lot of growing to do, but also seem to be making a little progress each week. Winston threw for 261 yards and a touchdown and an interception.  His completion percentage was under 50% and continues to make the mistakes one would expect from a rookie quarterback, but also is posting decent numbers.  Mike Evans appears to be returning to form as he had over 100 yards, which is another good sign.  One thing Tampa could really use is a good running game, to take some of the pressure off of Winston.  Doug Martin had 46 yards on 14 carries, and Charles Sims was even worse gaining 11 yards on 6 carries.  Tampa also missed 3 field goals, which is a big blow.  The Texans did their thing, run the ball and play great defense.  Alfred Blue dominated, and Mallett was effective enough.  When the Texans can run the ball, they are a tough team to play.  With Deandre Hopkins developing into a potential star, it’d be interesting to see what this team could do with a top 10 quarterback.

Fantasy Implications – There isn’t a lot to enjoy here.  Winston continues to struggle and isn’t more than a QB2.  Mike Evans appears to be on track though, just as we all thought he would when he got healthy.  I’m giving up on hoping for anything from Vincent Jackson.  He’s barely a flex option, until something changes.  If Arian Foster doesn’t play this week, Blue could be a solid option.  The Texans like to run the ball.  He had 31 carries last week, and that kind of volume is hard to find from a running back.  Of course, his volume will come crashing down once Foster returns.  However, I’d be inclined to hold onto him for a little bit if I had the space, considering Foster’s injury history.  Deandre Hopkins continues to fly under the radar, and could be a top option with a better quarterback.  In fact, he might be anyway.