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NFC South Preview: New Orleans vs. Tampa Bay, Carolina vs. Dallas

On Sunday after their bye week, the New Orleans Saints (1-4) will try to keep going with a win streak against its conference foe, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3).

The Carolina Panthers (1-4) will have to shake off their disappointment with sophomore quarterback Cam Newton and play the Dallas Cowboys (2-3) who still believe they’re destined for a great season.

The Atlanta Falcons (6-0), now the sole owners of a perfect record, have their bye week. It’s much-needed as their recent wins have been close ones that have exposed some problems.

Saints vs. Buccaneers

Saints QB Drew Brees

In their last game, the Saints had their first win of the season; quarterback Drew Brees had a record-setting game for consecutive touchdown passes and coach Sean Payton came to the team’s game and stirred a little controversy whether he should have appeared or not.

It didn’t hurt the team’s psyche as they finally saw a 31-24 win over the San Diego Chargers and gained some confidence.

It hasn’t faded and safety Roman Harper said, “We’re still very confident. Nothing has really changed. I understand we lost some games, but you can’t let them see you sweat. We understand we’re right on the cusp of greatness. We just have to go out there and achieve it.”

Helping the team on Sunday may be the possible return of linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

As for Brees, you don’t usually bet against him. Even with one win, he is having a good season. Against the Chargers, Brees went 29 for 45, 370 yards and four touchdowns. In his last two games, he’s passed for 816 yards, seven touchdowns and one pick.

One of his favorite weapons, wide receiver Marques Colston, has 18 receptions for 284 yards in his last two games.

For this game, the Buccaneers could be challenged by Brees as they rank at the league’s bottom (No. 31), giving up 312.2 yards in passing.

The Bucs have Josh Freeman as their field general and he’s no Brees.

In last week’s 38-10 win over Kansas City, Freeman passed for 328 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite receivers, Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson, caught eight receptions combined for 179 yards and three touchdowns. The two’s reception average place them in the Top 5 entering this game.

In their last meeting, the Bucs won 48-21. For this game, bettors are undecided as the game is even on a 49.5 over/under.

Panthers  vs. Cowboys 

Panthers QB Cam Newton

Both teams are confident about their quarterbacks but neither has performed well this season.

Carolina’s Cam Newton is yet to complete a pass in the end zone in 2012 (to-date a weak 58.8 overall completion rate) and he’s been his own worst enemy.

Coming off his bye week, Newton will need to have a short memory as he had a career low in his last game against the Seahawks (a 16-12 loss) that gave him a 41.4 completion rate and 141 passing yards.

His cornerback Captain Munnerlyn got the only touchdown of the game from an interception.

On a bright note, Newton is the team’s leading rusher with 40 carries for 209 yards and three touchdowns.

The Panthers face a tough Dallas defense that is the league’s leader in passing yards allowed per game (181.6) and No. 2 for total yards (285.2).

Dallas quarterback Tony Romo isn’t having a great season either and to-date, he has a 67.4 completion rate with 1,409 passing yards. He seems to have a vision problem as he has nine interceptions. This is the second-highest for the NFL.

Relying on their running game may be tough this week without top running back DeMarco Murray (left foot). Confident back Felix Jones will pinch hit as the No. 1 and last week against the Baltimore Ravens, he had 92 yards on the ground.

But Romo may get a break as the Bucs defense is No. 13 in the NFC thanks to its 377.0 yards allowed per game.

The Cowboys enter the game with a two-game losing streak while the Panthers have a three-game streak.

Who will snap it? The bettors still give a slight nod to Dallas with -1 and 46 over/under.

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