NFC South Preview: Falcons vs. Saints, Bucs vs. Chargers and Panthers vs. Broncos
In this Week 10 of NFL play, the league’s sole unbeaten team, the Atlanta Falcons (8-0), will head to the Big Easy to keep their streak alive and play the New Orleans Saints (3-5).
The improving Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4) will play the San Diego Chargers (4-4) while the NFC-worst Carolina Panthers (2-6) will host the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos (5-3)
Falcons vs. Saints
The Falcons, acting a little bit like the Rodney Dangerfield of the league by not getting any respect, will play a Saints team whose 3-5 season is on the brink of changing.
I wouldn’t bet against either Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan or Saints quarterback Drew Brees for a win, especially Brees who is again setting records, but the Saints have a defense problem.
It is a league worst and in eight games to-date, have given up at least 400 yards in each game. This represents the longest streak since 1950 and possibly in league history. With their 471.3 average yards, the Saints are heading toward the record of the most yards allowed in an NFL season.
But this should bode well for Ryan as quarterbacks against the Saints average a 105.1 passer rating.
It should also be good for Falcons running back Michael Turner who just grabbed his second century game of the season last week.
Historically, the Falcons have struggled against the Saints, losing three consecutive games against them. In their last 12 matchups, the Saints have won 10 but this could change. The Falcons are -2 with a 53.5 over/under for Sunday.
Buccaneers vs. Chargers
With the recent performance by rookie running back Doug Martin and their win streak, the Bucs now have their eye on the playoffs.
They sit four games behind the Falcons and will look for a third consecutive win on Sunday.
In last week’s 42-32 victory against the Oakland Raiders, Martin ran a franchise-record 251 yards with four touchdowns. He is now No. 2 in the league with 99.3 run yards per game. In the last three games, he has grabbed 608 scrimmage yards with seven touchdowns.
Can the Chargers stop him? They sit at No. 4 in the NFL against the run with its 87.4 yards per game but in its last two games, they have given up a 123.0 yard average.
Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman is averaging 314.3 average yards per game, 11 touchdowns and one pick from his last four games.
One of his favorite weapons is wide receiver Vince Jackson, who is No. 3 in the NFC from his 88.8 average yards per game. He will be reunited with his former team on Sunday.
His previous quarterback Phillip Rivers is playing well and in his recent win against Kansas City, he was 18 for 20, 220 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
But this may not be good enough as the Bucs are -3 with a 47 over/under on Sunday.
Panthers vs. Broncos
It’s been a disappointing season for the Panthers after their quarterback Cam Newton’s impressive rookie season in 2011.
For the Broncos, new quarterback Manning has taken the team to the top of the AFC West and is playing his way into a MVP contender.
Carolina is looking for its second consecutive win and could challenge the talented quarterback with a defense that has only given up one passing touchdown or less in the team’s last seven games out of eight.
In the last four games, the Panthers have given up an average of 212.3 passing yards and only Ryan broke this mark back on Sept. 30 with 369 yards.
Manning has five consecutive–almost six–games of passing for more than 300 yards this season.
As for Newton, he’ll just try to keep his head in the game and stay away from turnovers. Last week against the Washington Redskins, he was 13 for 23 passes, 201 yards and one touchdown.
It made fans recall Newton’s talent but against Denver this week, the nod goes to the visiting team at -3.5 with a 47 over/under.