Oh yeah, still number one!
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sucked against the Detroit Lions. Yet somehow, they are still number one in the NFC South. Or at least they're tied for it with the other three teams. And they didn't even lose in the ugliest fashion. That honor goes to the Atlanta Falcons, who were destroyed by the Chicago Bears.
Yes, the Atlanta Falcons were absolutely flattened by the Chicago Bears. Chicago beat down Atlanta 30 to 12 on the back of a very strong defense. The game was actually pretty close in terms of yardage, but the Falcons spent most of the game messing about in their end of the field. In fact, they only ended one drive anywhere near the Chicago goal line, and they got a field out of that. Meanwhile, two lost fumbles and an interception killed their chances.
The Atlanta defense also entirely failed to show up. They did sack Jay Cutler five times, but given the state of the Bears offensive line that's not all that impressive. A 50-yard interception return by Kroy Biermann is a lot more impressive, although that's pretty much a lfuky play. Overall the Falcons looked very sluggish, slow and not at all explosive on either side of the ball.
The same thing absolutely cannot be said of the Carolina Panthers, however. The Panthers ultimately lost to a poor Arizona Cardinals team, but they looked pretty impressive while doing so. Cam Newton looked very good out there, throwing for an absurd 422 yards on 37 attempts in his debut. He threw for two touchdowns and one interception, while adding another touchdowns on the ground. Steve Smith was the main beneficiary, who caught 8 balls for 178 yards, showing that he is still a very dangerous deep threat.
Surprisingly, the Panthers completely failed to run the ball, which used to be the strength of their team. They had a total of 27 attempts, including eight by Newton, for just 74 yards. The Panthers didn't ever commit to running the ball, though, and they look like a decidedly pass-first team now. That makes their re-signing Deangelo Williams even more puzzling than it already was.
The Panthers defense looked less competent than the offense, however. Beanie Wells ran for 90 yards on 18 carries, while Kevin Kolb was allowed to complete 18/27 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns. The Panthers aren't likely to challenge for the NFC South lead, but they do look a lot more impressive on offense than I would have expected.
Finally, there's the New Orleans Saints who lost against the Green Bay Packers on Thursday Night. The Saints looked like they always do on offense: very good, which is pretty impressive against a good defense. Mark Ingram disappointed, though, as the Saints really couldn't get a running game going. On the other hand, Darren Sproles was extremely effective.
But Saints fans must have thought it was 2008 again, because the Green Bay Packers cut through that defense like crazy. The Packers have a very good offense, so that may not be much of an indication for now, but that New Orleans defense got shredded. The defensive line got pushed around, while the back seven couldn't cover anyone. Patrick Robinson and Roman Harper looked especially awful.
This was a pretty bad week for a division that was hyped as maybe the best division in the NFL during the offseason. But at least that means the Bucs aren't falling behind, yet.