NFC South Week 10 Preview
Atlanta cruises into the 10th week of the NFL season with a dominating four game lead in the NFC South and with a matchup against the 3-5 New Orleans Saints. Of course, before the season began, we thought this week 10 showdown would have been more meaningful and it still is, just in a different way than expected. The Falcons have a perfect record, the only one in the league, to defend, while the Saints need a win in order to stay relevant in the playoff race, if not in the South, then at least in the NFC wild card picture. Meanwhile the week is just as significant for both the Buccaneers, who at in second place in the division at 4-4, and the Panthers, who like the Saints are in desperation mode at 2-6. Here’s at the three games in the NFC South this week.
Denver Broncos 5-3 at Carolina Panthers 2-6
The AFC West leading Broncos are riding high on a current three-game winning streak, which has been backed by a rejuvenated Peyton Manning. Manning, who is putting up MVP-like numbers, has looked like a mirror-image of his younger self and has turned the Broncos into a top five NFL passing offense. He will go up against a middle-of-the-road 13th ranked pass defense of the Panthers, so there’s no reason to think he won’t have continued success.
It’s quite surprising really that the Panthers, who have stumbled out of the gate this year at 2-6, haven’t won more contests considering their numbers. Carolina ranks in the top 20 in all major categories, making it all the more frustrating that they haven’t notched more victories in 2012. No one is more frustrated than last year’s offensive rookie of the year, Cam Newton, who is leading the 18th ranked aerial attack in the NFL.
Newton and the Panthers have lost several close games this season and I’m afraid this looks like another one waiting to happen. The Broncos are too hot, too poised and have too much veteran leadership to drop this one, even on the road. Take Denver to cover -4 points this week.
Atlanta Falcons 8-0 at New Orleans Saints 3-5
Having won three of their last four, the Saints are finally finding a groove, but is it too late? The Falcons will be their toughest test of the season so far and with an undefeated record, haven’t been giving an inch to the surging Saints in the South. This may be New Orleans last shot to get back in the running.
The Saints obviously plan to attack the Falcons pass defense with the second best air attack in the NFL with Drew Brees, but this is a Falcons team without many weaknesses, as they are ranked a respectable 14th against the pass. Atlanta has actually struggled more against the run (24th), but New Orleans hasn’t had much success this season in that department (30th).
I like the Saints and I believe they are better than their record, but frankly, they don’t matchup well here. The Falcons, as evidenced by their unbeaten mark, can beat you in a variety of ways, while the Saints are well…one dimensional. Look for Atlanta keep this thing going by covering -1 points this week.
San Diego Chargers 4-4 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-4
This matchup features two teams coming off wins last week, with Tampa’s being slightly more impressive due to their rookie running back’s performance. Doug Martin rushed for 251 yards and four touchdowns during the 42-32 win over Oakland is now second in the NFL this season in rushing.
He and the Bucs will be up against some stiff competition this week though, a San Diego run defense that’s ranked 4th in the league. However, Tampa is even better against the run, in fact the Bucs are the best in the NFL, allowing just 77.3 yards per game. They do give up more than 300 yards through the air, so Philip Rivers and Co. with have to look to the passing game to attack Tampa.
Doug Martin has had a great rookie season and with the Bucs at home, they are a slight three point favorite, but I like the Chargers today. Martin will not have as much running room this week and the Chargers should be able to attack that Tampa secondary all day. Go with the upset here and take San Diego to cover +3 and win outright.