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State of the NFC South after Week 14, Saints lose the #1 seed

The Jalen Hurts led Eagles snap the Saints nine-game winning streak with a stunning 24-21 upset victory.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

After 14 weeks of daunting NFL action mixed with COVID barriers, the NFC South still isn’t quite a tense race for the division-leading spot, as represented in other divisions (AFC South, NFC West, NFC East). Despite a Brees-less New Orleans Saints squad coming off a gut-wrenching loss, New Orleans sits profoundly at 10-3. The second-place NFC South squad, Tampa Bay sits two games behind (8-5) and boasts a 2-3 record in their previous five match-ups.

The true colossal-like hurdle for Tom Brady’s crew is that the Saints flex the “head-to-head” victory over Tampa. Well, what does that signify? So, if Tampa was to miraculously match New Orleans record with three games remaining, the Saints would still capture their fourth-straight division title.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This NFC South division (ranked the second-best from CBS Sports) also has shaped out to unveil whether the NFC South squads are in the playoff picture. Outside of the (still) respected juggernaut Saints team & the second-place Buccaneers squad in house, it’s clear what the playoff outlook is Carolina and Atlanta. The Falcons (4-9) and the Panthers (4-9) are now officially eliminated from a post-season tour, following their Week 14 defeats.

This undeniably, mind-boggling 2020 regular season is merely coming to an imminent closure and the trajectory in the NFC South is becoming more clear—regardless of the positive or negative direction it proceeds. With that brief outlook of the NFC South teams being exonerated, let’s dissect more team-related news and goals moving forward.

New Orleans Saints

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints edged out the despised divisional foe, Atlanta Falcons, twice with their back-up quarterback (Taysom Hill) but felt victim to losing a “trap-game” up in Philadelphia. Payton’s key reflection on the NFC duel up north “It took us until the second-half until we got at least a sense of urgency. Look, it wasn’t enough. That’s on me”.

This lack of discipline and energy by the Saints mentioned by Payton was revealed with serious damage by Philadelphia. New Orleans allowed 246 total rushing yards by the Eagles rushing attack. The Saints run defense allowed a putrid 87-yard run & the “veteran” Cam Jordan was letting his emotion go with a roughing the penalty call on the “rookie” QB, Hurts.

The Black & Gold nation hasn’t witnessed the fortress of a run defense get exposed like that in the past few years. I would say the new-look, dual-threat QB in Jalen Hurts, combined with a slow start on offense unraveled an unforgivable performance against a well-coached Eagles team.

Looking ahead, the Saints defend the dome against the Kansas City Chiefs (12-1) in Week 15. It will be vital that the Saints forget the Eagles loss, as they face Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill in less than seven days. If they oust a bad week of practice with Tasyom Hill likely starting (reports point to being patient with Brees), then it will be another nightmare for Who Dat nation in Week 15.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tom Brady led Buccaneers team has begun climbing the ladder back into NFC prominence. Buccaneers peeled off a huge victory against a hot Vikings team that had already won three out of their last four contests, prior to Week 14.

Brady’s long-time teammate & weapon has might be the key for Bruce Arian’s rejuvenated attack coming off the bye week. That player cooking over the last two weeks: Rob Gronkowski.

Gronkowski had a receiving touchdown and he drew a huge pass interference call at the end of the first half in Week 14. This net result comes a week after (bye week in-between) he reeled in six receptions for 106 receiving yards in the huge Chiefs match-up.

Looking onward to Week 15, the Brady Bunch will be combatting the (4-9) Falcons squadron, as Matt Ryan aims to flip the switch to spoiler mode. The Buccaneers are in the driver’s seat for a wild-card spot, as they sit two games ahead of the teams on the bubble, but they can’t manage to get upset and be “one game ahead” of teams on the outside looking in.

Carolina Panthers

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers have had an awkward, unfortunate blunder of a season in 2020. Their results have been fueled by a near season-ending injury to arguably the most indispensable player to his own team (Christian McCaffrey), a plethora of late-game losses, and they compete in a division where the Buccaneers sit in second-place.

As of late, the Panthers have managed to fight hard and come up short. Coach Rhule’s squad lost to the Broncos by a score of 32-27, which comes a week after the Panthers kicker missed a game-winning field goal in a 28-27 loss to Bridgewater’s former ally (Minnesota Vikings).

There has been a couple of positives for Carolina’s ball-club. Panthers WR Robby Anderson continues to be one of the underrated free-agent acquisitions in the 2020 off-season. Anderson is back on track (started 2020 strong) with his eight receptions for 84 receiving yards in Week 14, which comes after four receptions, 94 receiving yards in Week 13. His near 1,000 yard receiving mark (996) can attest to the growth that he’s yielded from going from an Adam Gase attack to a Gase-less offense.

In Week 15, Carolina takes a trip to the Frozen Tundra, also known as Lambeau Field, to take on Aaron Rodgers & company. This will be a re-match of their 2019 scene, where the Panthers barely lost, at the expenditure of “C-MAC” coming up a yard short of the end-zone with the game clock hitting double zero. According to ESPN reports, C-MAC isn’t expected to be in action for the Green Bay Contest (thigh). This is devastating news for Saints fans (honestly), due to the fact that Green Bay sits in first place atop the NFC.

Atlanta Falcons

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Chargers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons now dissolve to 4-9 on the dismissal of 14 regular-season weeks. This comes after a heartbreaking loss to the rookie sensation, Justin Herbert, by a score of 20-17.

This aching Falcons team has a few high-profile players, but too many problems all-around to diagnose. Where do we begin? They’re paying a below-average QB $30 million per season, Julio Jones is making $20+ million per year at wideout, they’re 23rd in sacks allowed, and they departed former-first round pick in 2015, Vic Beasley before the year, along with 2017 first-round pick, Takk McKinley. Not only was Dan Quinn removed from headquarters, but their GM Thomas Dimitroff packed his bags & left Atlanta.

The Falcons are one of three teams to have relieved their head coach from his respected position (Patricia, O’Brien, Quinn, Gase). Whoever is deserving of head coaching the Falcons roster, the new hire might need to tear down the house, prior to delivering more gigantic contracts.

For the short remainder of the interim Head Coach (Raheem Mostert) season, the up-hill battle will only continue—The Falcons remaining three games go as followed: vs Buccaneers, @ Chiefs, @ Buccaneers. This an absolutely battle-tested schedule and immovable force for a Falcons team that was eliminated from playoff contention with the loss to Los Angeles.

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