Okay, this review may actually encompass one week 5 game but since the Bucs week 1 encounter was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma, this weeks TNF takes all four NFC south teams to a convenient point in the season. So since the Bucs have just finished their encounter against the Pats, where else is there to start than in Tampa…
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sitting level with the New Orleans Saints, the Bucs are currently 2-2 after their loss to New England on Thursday. Starting the season with a thumping victory against Chicago a team home, the Bucs crashed miserably to the Vikings in Minnesota where a lacklustre defensive performance was somewhat matched by an error strewn performance by the Offense. Still, this loss against the Vikings was eradicated by a tighter-than-should-have-been-win against the New York Giants. Nick Folk may have kicked the game winning field goal as time expired but a combination of Folk’s inaccuracy and some strange offensive calling especially on a toss play from the 1/2 yard line resulted in this game not being decided until the final play of the game. If Folk thought that Sunday’s performance was bad, it was nothing in comparison to the shit-fest he delivered to the Bucs fans on Thursday Night Football aginst the defending Super Bowl champs. Folk may be excused missing on the 56 yarder at the end of the first half which was a result of two successive roughing the passer penalties called against the Patriots as time expired at the end of the second quarter, however, his miss from 49 yards at the start of the fourth quarter to trim the Pats lead was bad but his miss from 31 yards late in the fourth quarter was appalling. This last kick in particular has lead the Bucs to hold trials for a new kicker but on the plus side, at least Folk knew he was responsible for the loss.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints share the same record as the Bucs (2-2) and are probably quite content with that record after the first four games when you consider how bad the Secondary was at the start of the season, Unable to rush the passer, unable to cover the pass, a seemingly mess of a committee at running back, the Saints’ season could well have been over at this stage. However, an impressive road win against divisional rivals Carolina Panthers, followed up with another road win in London against a pathetic Jay Cutler led Dolphins teams has helped the Saints recover from their poor start. If the Saints are going to threaten the NFC South then they have to sort out their running game. Mark Ingram has always been an elusive back, however, his injury history shows that he cannot be relied upon to remain healthy for the season. Rookie Alvin Kamara has been a revalation in the backfield and has quickly become the go to Running Back on pass plays. And there is Adrian Peterson. In his heyday, Peterson was the bell cow Running Back in Minnesota. Hand-off after hand-off, he was the focus for the ground game for most of his career. Now seemingly an afterthought, an ill-advised luxury signing, All Day is unhappy at being a bit-part player in the Saints Offense. With the trade dealing on the horizon, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Peterson shipped out pastures new to a team short in backs and long in cash.
Sitting pretty at 3-1, the Falcons could just as easily be sitting 1-3 after a topsy-turvey start to their campaign. Lacklustre in the season openener in Chicago, the Falcons then blew away the Packers in the first game to be played at their mega impressive new home. Atlanta were then inches away from losing against the Lions in Detroit after a last second Detroit score was reversed. 3-0 all seemed good for the Falcons as that temporarily halted any talk of a Super Bowl hangover until week 4 that was when the old Matt Ryan made an appearance. Last year’s MVP was always going to struggle to match his 2016 performance but he had know problem matching some of his 2015 performances with a sub standard outing against Buffalo. Picked off twice, Ryan also lost his top two Wide Receivers in Julio Jones and Mohammed Sanu as both left the field with injuries. Ryan will continue to be questioned on a weekly basis due to the departure of Kyle Shanahan and only he can answer the doubters as to whether or not last year was a one-off. Fortunately for Atlanta, although there are no easy games in the NFL, there next two games are against the Dolphins and the Jets so expect the Dirty Birds to avoid the Super Bowl hangover question for a team least another couple of weeks.
The Panthers sitting at the top of the NFC South with a 3-1 record and everything seemingly rosy – with the exception of losing elite Tight End, and Cam Newton’s security blanket, Greg Olsen – Carolina should be enjoying their start to the season and I’m sure they were up until Cam Newton’s now infamous and completely inexcusable comments at a recent press conference.
The Panthers Defence was smothering during their first two outings of the season as they practically shut down both the 49ers and the Bills for a combined total of six points. With a Defence playing a team this level, the Offence doesn’t have to be firing on all cylinders at the start of the season which is just as well for Carolina as Cam Newton had a lukewarm start to the season. However, two successive performances where the Defense has conceded 30+ points may indicate that the Panthers D is not as all-conquering as originally thought. The week 3 divisional clash at home against the then winless Saints will go down in the books as a shock considering both teams start to the season. Still, as long as you score more points than the opposition then points conceded is an irrelevant stat and that was the case in the week 4 road game in New England as a last gasp Graham Gano field goal gave PantherNation a 33-30 win against the Super Bowl champions with the Offence looking more like their 2015 version when they reached the Super Bowl.
So with all four teams now having played four games and all with a record of 0.500 or better (the only division which can boast this) the NFC South, at this stage in the season, appears to be as competitive as the pre-season predictions.
Now where did I put my kicking shoes……..
Photo copyright: Sport Interaction.