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State of the NFC South: Week 2, the Falcons are still the Falcons

The New Orleans Saints were the only team to start the season 1-0. Where do all of the expectations stand?

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints are three time defending NFC South Champions. They flexed their neck hold on the division early in the 2020 season. The Saints cruised through the Tom Brady, led Buccaneers squad 34-23. Tom Brady was intercepted twice by an improved Saints secondary. Alvin Kamara showed his juice was back with two, almost three touchdowns on the day.

The other two NFC South teams couldn’t say the same and they didn’t have a great start to the season. Carolina Panthers lost a thrilling game to the Las Vegas Raiders, 34-30. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons got poured on by Russell Wilson in a 38-25 defeat.

Let’s take a closer look at these three teams going into a more opportunistic Week 2.

New Orleans Saints:

Record: 1-0 Next opponent: @ Las Vegas Raiders

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints battle the rising Las Vegas Raiders squad. The Saints defense will have another huge task on their hands. Their facing a red hot, Jon Gruden offense. The Raiders need Josh Jacobs, Derek Carr, and Henry Ruggs to have another big game as they will aim to edge out New Orleans in their first game inside Allegiant Stadium.

As for the Saints, they will be going into this Monday Night Showdown, without their prized 2019 Offensive Player of The Year, Michael Thomas. The team will need to lean on Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook more in this contest. Thankfully, those two playmakers have already started hot to the season. Sanders had one receiving touchdown, while Cook had 80 receiving yards against Tampa Bay,

If the Saints can play the run well, per usual, they will have a great chance of success against a Raiders offense that will be asked to do well in potential long 3rd downs, without elite playmakers. Marshon Lattimore didn’t allow one catch to Mike Evans in Week 1, so Derek Carr will need players like Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller to create separation.

Carolina Panthers:

Record: 0-1 Next opponent: @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers head over to Tampa Bay to square off against Tom Brady. Both team are 0-1 and know that playoffs look a lot dimmer after starting 0-2. Teddy Bridgewater will look to repeat another stout performance, coming off 270 yards/98.9 passer rating.

They will need Christian McCaffrey to show up with an even better performance this time around. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the best run defense in the league and they showed that when Saints averaged 2.4 YPC on the day. McCaffrey needs to do better than his 4.2 YPC and 96 yards rushing if they want to open the offense up for Teddy Bridgewater.

The Buccaneers can stop the run and put up points with the weapons they have on offense. It will be crucial that McCaffrey helps Teddy get huge chunks and doesn’t force the Panthers to work with 2nd, 3rd and long against an insane Buccaneers pass rush.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

Record: 0-1 Next opponent: vs Carolina Panthers

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers lost a brutal game in New Orleans, but lots of positive notes can be taken. This run defense is legit, and it can be stated over and over again. This front seven has Shaq Barrett, Lavonte David, William Gholston, Devin White, Vita Vea, and Ndamukung Suh. Those are all elite players at defending the run.

The secondary had some pass interference issues, but they held their end for the most part. The only thing that lacks in this team, is continuity on offense. Brady showed that he can throw a great deep ball to Chris Godwin, but he needs to be on the same page with the whole offense. Several “quality” playmakers won’t work out if they can’t be in rhythm.

If the Buccaneers can defend McCaffrey at an extremely well level, like they did against Alvin Kamara, they should put themselves in a great position against Teddy Bridgewater’s passing game. Brady just needs to be in synch and take care of the football better than Week 1.

Atlanta Falcons:

Record: 0-1 Next Opponent: @ Dallas Cowboys

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons are a very hard team to read right now. They lost a 38-25 game to an elite opponent, with strong continuity, but with a couple elite pieces added. The Falcons have a chance to redeem themselves against a Dallas Cowboys team that got “upset” by Los Angeles Rams.

The Falcons got Todd Gurley going strong in Week 1. He looked like his old self with his power running and tackle breaking touchdown run. The defense didn’t have an answer for Russel Wilson, however. The Falcons secondary hasn’t been a complete Achilles to the team in the past, so a lot of the pain came from an elite Seattle offense with great talent & poise.

If the Falcons defense can figure out how to create pressure and force a couple turnovers, I believe that Julio Jones and Matt Ryan could win this one. The Cowboys team is similar to the Buccaneers, where they are trying to figure out how to utilize all their weapons.

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