NFC South Review: Week 14

By Robert Knarr

The Carolina Panthers wrapped up the NFC South last week, but there’s plenty more football to play.  The Panthers attempted to keep their undefeated season rolling, while the Bucs and Falcons hoped to gain ground in the Wild Card race.  The scrambled NFC playoff race is gaining some clarity as the Seahawks keep winning, but there’s still hope that a second team from the NFC South makes the playoffs.

Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers: 0-38

Atlanta FalconsCarolina Panthers

The Panthers kept their undefeated season alive, crushing the Falcons and nearly destroying their hopes of earning a playoff spot.  The Falcons were shut out for the first time in over 10 years, accentuating how far their offense has fallen.  The game was nearly over in the first quarter.  Cam made several deep throws, including a couple bombs to Ginn, and they jumped out to an early 21-0 lead.  The Falcons never got anything going, again.  They could’ve avoided the shutout and kicked a meaningless field goal late in the game.  But, they went for it and were stopped at the goal line, ending their only good scoring chance.  I don’t need to keep rehashing their problems.  Instead, I’ll just say they have a lot of work to do in the offseason, and are almost certainly going to miss the playoffs after starting 5-0.

Cam Newton

Cam Newton

The Panthers rebounded from a close game against the Saints last week.  They played a complete game, and showed why they’re still undefeated.  They have 3 games left in the season, and things are getting quite interesting for the Panthers.  They locked up the 1st week bye, but should continue starting all their players at least until they lock down home-field advantage.  Wild speculation will begin to occur if they stay undefeated this week.  However, I think they should go for the undefeated season and play all their starters, at least for the 1st half of each game.  They already have a bye, and don’t want to end up rusty.

Fantasy Implications – I warned fantasy players last week about starting Falcons players against the Carolina defense.  Again, I wouldn’t be confident starting anyone except Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman, and will still be hesitant in starting them this week.  Cam has been amazing and the only concern with him and the other Carolina Panthers players is that they may not play the last couple weeks.  I think they will try to go for the undefeated season if they can, so I’d be hoping for a win from them this week if you have any of their players.  They will still be more careful with their players though.  Jonathan Stewart is hurt, and going to miss this week as the Panthers try to remain careful with him.  Look for Whitaker, Cameron Artis-Payne, and Tolbert to see increased workloads.  How it’ll be divided up, I couldn’t say.  The situation could have a big impact on fantasy playoffs though.  Ginn showed off his big play ability, and continues to be a decent flex option, with great potential.  The other wideouts are questionable in value as Cam spreads the ball around.  Olsen may lose a little value going forward as well.  He’ll play, but could sit out if he incurs a minor injury, as he did Sunday.

New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 24-17

New Orleans SaintsTampa Bay Buccaneers

The Saints have showed a lot of fight the last couple of weeks, nearly beating the Panthers and going on the road to win a tough divisional matchup.  Meanwhile, the Bucs showed that they have some more growing to do.  Winston, in particular had a tough day.  He should’ve shined in this matchup against a weak secondary, but that’s how it goes sometimes, especially for rookies.  He threw for 182 yards and 1 touchdown, completing 18/32 passes.  Perhaps, he needs to take a few more risks.  I love the smart decision making, but he has big targets who can leap over many defensive backs.  The Bucs will likely fail to make the playoffs now.  However, they should be impressed with the play of their young players, and have a bright future ahead.

Drew Brees

Drew Brees

The Saints could’ve rolled over, but I don’t think Brees knows how to quit.  He played tough, and they could theoretically make the playoffs.  However, I certainly don’t see that happening, since they would have to win out and have several things go right for them.  Regardless, I admire the Saints for their tough nature, and think they are a better team than many give them credit for.  Their schedule was tough, and they lost a few close games.  It should be an interesting offseason for them.

Fantasy Implications – Most everything stays the same for these teams.  Martin is the fantasy star of the Bucs.  However, Evans and Vincent Jackson are useful.  Evans needs to take that next step, which he easily can do as soon as he stops dropping so many passes.  Winston remains decent, but hasn’t reached his big game potential yet.

The biggest change among these teams was Hightower taking most of the load after Ingram got hurt.  He played devently racking up 85 yards on 28 carries with 1 touchdown.  Brees continues to be a useful asset, despite not quite playing like the guy we all know and used to depend on.  Watson continues to be a decent tight end option.  Just when you think Cooks is emerging as the top wideout, he goes and puts up a dud, 3 receptions for 29 yards.  The rest of the group is just a gamble with low reward and high risk.