NFL Week 3 South: Early Season Pivotal Points

Roddy White about to be greeted by the Tampa secondary.

Inside Our NFL rolls on. The NFL has had it’s share of rivalries. Teams that just couldnt’ stand each other and brought out the worst in their opponent. The newest NFL hatefest is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons. We’re not sure if it began with General Manager Rich McKay moving from the Buccaneers to the Falcons in 2003, but we do know it’s intense. Last week these two renewed affiliations and played another slugfest this past weekend. One where the Atlanta Falcons were called for encroachment, grabbed Tampa’s QB Josh Freeman’s leg and the young quarterback bucked like a bronco to free himself.  Nearly stepping on a couple of strewn about arms of would be defenders. One where Bucs QB Freeman was sacked, the next series his Buccaneers retaliated with an eight man all out blitz at the line of scrimmage that nearly knocked Matty “Ice” Ryan into next week. What did they do for an encore when they knocked him groggy?? Sent another for one of the most vicious sacks seen in years. In which three players arrived at the same time forcing a fumble and knocking Ryan’s helmet off. Quite simply, the Bucs outhit Atlanta for a 16-13 win.

These young Bucks (pun intended) are growing up before our very eyes. They narrowly missed the playoffs going 10-6 last year yet have started this season slowly on the offensive side of the ball. Right now Josh Freeman has completed 67.9 % of his passes yet has thrown 2TDs v. 4 interceptions. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/tam/2011.htm  He’ll have to improve on the his TD to Int ratio, in fact he was second to Tom Brady with the lowest interception ratio last year. With LeGarrette Blount and this young defense, they are playing close to the vest affairs, having scored 60 points while allowing 60. Yet should pad their 2-1 record hosting Indy, traveling to San Francisco, before an important early season divisional matchup with the New Orleans Saints. The division lead should be on the line….speaking of which, lets take a look.

NFC SOUTH W L T PCT HOME ROAD DIV CONF PF PA DIFF STRK
Tampa Bay 2 1 0 .667 1-1-0 1-0-0 1-0-0 2-1-0 60 60 0 Won 2
New Orleans 2 1 0 .667 2-0-0 0-1-0 0-0-0 1-1-0 104 88 +16 Won 2
Carolina 1 2 0 .333 1-1-0 0-1-0 0-0-0 0-2-0 60 68 -8 Won 1
Atlanta 1 2 0 .333 1-0-0 0-2-0 0-1-0 1-2-0 60 77 -17 Lost 1

Right now the Atlanta Falcons should be concerned since they are 1 miraculous comeback from  being 0-3. Now those first 3 opponents were 11-5, 10-6, and 10-6 last year respectively, yet it’s against top competition where you measure yourself. Of course it’s still early in the season but they’re being gashed on the ground. They have given up 336 yards rushing so far to opposing teams and at least 1 TD in every game. They need a defensive leader to emerge. Yes, John Abraham is good for 10-12 sacks a season (this year 2) but these defensive linemen either have to get off more blocks or their run as division champs could be in jeopardy. Especially with the “Runnin’ Carolinas” comin to town in 3 weeks. Before that they travel cross country to Seattle then come home to a rematch with the defending Super Bowl Champion Packers. Careful Atlanta this season could get away from you quick. Get back to the run.

Jonathon Stewart in a preseason game. Back when Carolina was running with regularity

Sorry kids, but last week the Cam Newton experience, was rained out last week against Jacksonville although they got their first win. What has been surprising in these first two weeks is the Panthers haven’t been able to run the football. Stewart is averaging 3.9 yards per carry to Williams’ 2.3, and did you know each hasn’t rushed for more than 100 yards this season. That’s not acceptable!! They’re not supposed to stand and watch Newton! Go keep the defenses honest. Right now it’s all about Steve Smith and the Hurricane tight end connection Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey in the passing game. They have 16,12, and 9 receptions respecively…couple that with 13 checkdown receptions by Stewart and Newton is distributing his passes well. Just in time because quick passing to TEs is what Ron Rivera needs when his team visits Chicago and Mr. Urlacher this Sunday. Think Greg Olsen will be fired up?? Commit to the run on the Bears or Briggs and Urlacher will make life miserable for Newton this week. Afterward they host the Saints…Stewart and Williams need to find a groove.

Speaking of the ‘Who Dat Nation” they are who we thought they were! Uh..not quite, they sit atop the NFC South  with a 2-1 record yet the only time they haven’t scored is during the writing of this article. Lost in the hoopla with the AFC’s quarterbacks in Fitzpatrick and Brady, is the fact that Brees is on pace for 5,648 yards and 48TDs so far. He has 1,059 yards passing, 9TDs to only 2 interceptions and the Saints have scored 34,30, and 40 points thus far this season. Right now he’s carrying the team on his back…er..shoulder. With their next three games on the road to Jacksonville, Carolina, and Tampa Bay, this looks like a prime spot to get Mark Ingram into the mix running the football. This is necessary to rest a defense that has 3 of it’s top 4 tacklers being defensive backs. Lift some weights frontline!!!

We will find out plenty about this division over these next three weeks…

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