NFC South Review: Week 10

By Robert Knarr

The Falcons were on a bye, but there was still plenty of excitement around the NFC South.  The Bucs won again, the Saints were crushed, and the Panthers remained undefeated.  There’s a lot to get to around the division, and fantasy playoffs are fast approaching.  Let’s change things up, and start with the Bucs this week, since I feel like I don’t give them enough love.

Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 6-10

Dallas CowboyTampa Bay Buccaneers

Neither team was able to get anything going on offense throughout this game.

The Cowboys dearly miss Tony Romo, while the Bucs are still growing as an offense.  There weren’t a lot of explosive offense plays in this game, but the Bucs keep trending upwards and have already doubled their win total from last year.  They finally broke through with the help of some good fortune in the final minute.  A Tampa Bay fumble on the goal line was called back by a holding call on Cowboys safety, Jeff Heath.  Meanwhile, Jameis Winston didn’t have his best game, but scored the game winning touchdown on a 1-yard rush.  In fact, it was the only touchdown of the game.  Winston also ended his impressive streak of games without an interception, as he hadn’t thrown one since throwing 4 against the Panthers in week 4.

Jameis Winston - Getty Images

Jameis Winston – Getty Images

Tampa looks like a different team than last year.  They aren’t a good team yet, but have plenty of potential.  Winston has been much less of a dumpster fire than I expected.  He’ holding his own and beginning to make better decisions, but unfortunately still makes plenty of questionable decisions as well.  Mike Evans is looking more and more like a number 1 wide receiver.  The offensive line and defense are improved.  Doug Martin was resurgent, but has recently taken a step back.  This team needs improvement in other areas as well, but could hypothetically contend for the playoffs this year, and should be in the discussion with a few savvy moves and continued growth from their youngsters next year.

Fantasy Implications – Most of this team’s fantasy assets have remained the same.  Winston is a decent but not reliable QB2, while Mike Evans continues to flourish.  Doug Martin slid again, racking up only 63 yards on 18 carries.  However, neither Charles Sims nor anyone else was better.  His job seems secure for now.  I wouldn’t mind handcuffing him with Sims though.  Nobody else is worth much consideration now, although Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Vincent Jackson could be valuable when they return.

Carolina Panthers at Tennessee Titans: 27-10

Carolina PanthersTennessee Titans

The Panthers are starting to top some people’s Power Rankings, which makes sense, now that the Patriots are the only other undefeated team.

This game was closer through halftime than the final score indicates.  However, the defense was unrelenting, giving the Panthers some stellar opportunities in the late 3rd and 4th quarter and the Panthers offense was able to get back on track and dominate the late portion of the game.

Cam started the game by completing his first 11 passes, one short of Steve Buerlein’s franchise record of 12 straight completed passes.  He completed an early second quarter touchdown to Ed Dickson, to give the Panthers a 14-7 lead.  After remaining tight, the Panthers got a couple of field goals later in the second half.  The defense wasn’t going to let this game get away while the offense scuffled in the middle of the game.  They played extremely tough, yielding no points in the second half and creating a couple of turnovers.  Cam executed a brilliant late 4th quarter drive eating up a tremendous amount of clock, and finishing with a short touchdown run.

Cam Newton - AP Photo

Cam Newton – AP Photo

Carolina looks great all around.  The defense continues to be strong.  Shaq Thompson is turning into an asset, doing a good job stopping the run.  They have a few challenges left, playing the Falcons twice, the Giants, the Cowboys who should have Romo back, a dangerous Saints offense, and a better Bucs team.  I doubt they go undefeated, but they have played the toughest part of their schedule.  They should easily win the division, but nothing is certain in the NFL.  Furthermore, at this point, if they don’t at least make it to the NFC Championship game, this season will be a disappointment.

Fantasy Implications – Not a lot has changed with this team either.  Cam continues to be excellent.  Olsen had a nice game, although he didn’t score a touchdown.  Funchess played decently.  He caught his only two targets for 41 yards.  He could be in for a bigger role, but we’ll have to wait and see on that.  He’s not a bad option for your bench, but likely isn’t going to turn into Kelvin Benjamin this season.  Ten Ginn had 8 targets, but only was able to reel 4 of them in.  Jonathan Stewart was decent, rushing for 91 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.

New Orleans Saints at Washington Redskins: 14-47

New Orleans SaintsWashington Redkins

The Saints have been unable to continue their resurgence, and fall to last place in the division.

Furthermore, their defense has been horrendous, and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan lost his job after this terrible game.  Not sure if your team’s defense is terrible?  If they give up 47 points, 4 touchdowns, and 514 total yards to Washington this year, then yeah, you have a bad defense.  Washington set the tone by driving 96 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive.  At the half they led 27-14, and it was all downhill from there.  The Saints are unable to stop the passing game, and couldn’t generate any offense in the second half.  Drew Brees played poorly as well.  He had 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and only 208 yards against a bad Washington defense.

Drew Breese - USA Today Sports Photo

Drew Breese – USA Today Sports Photo

The Saints are almost out of the playoff picture.  They could still work to get a wildcard, but right now I’d pick the Bucs getting a wildcard before the Saints.  At least the Bucs don’t look like they’re playing with 10 people on defense.  Considering the near impossibility of winning the division I’d bet everything against them playing in the postseason.  Either the Packers or Vikings are likely to secure a wildcard, and I see a lot of teams better than the Saints ahead of them for the second spot.  I consider the Bears, Redskins, Eagles, Seahawks, Falcons, Bucs, and Rams all ahead of the Saints.  Perhaps the firing of Ryan can help turn things around.  They have an offense a lot of other teams would be happy to have, but that’s not saying much when they also have the worst defense.  They will have a lot of questions to answer in the upcoming offseason, particularly what to do with Drew Brees.

Fantasy Implications –  Amidst all the poor play of the Saints, owning their star players in fantasy is a good idea considering they will be playing from behind so consistently.  Brees had an off weak, but should be solid going forward still.  Brandin Cooks is coming along.  He had 2 touchdowns, and 5 catches for 98 yards.  Ingram only had 5 carries, but still put up 77 yards rushing, and had 3 catches for 21 yards.  He’s a solid RB2.  Ben Watson was largely absent, catching only 3 passes for 19 yards.  He should be better when Brees has better days.  Other players aren’t worth consideration.