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NFC South Review

Through the first 12 weeks of the 2020 NFL season, as part of the NFC South, the Saints are ready to pull away from the pack. At 9-2, they hold a 2 1/2 game lead over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are 7-5 on the season. At 4-7 and 4-6, respectively, the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers need to get hot and get some help to make the postseason.

Taking a look at the Saints, they started the season with an 11-point win over the Buccaneers. They dropped the next two, giving up a combined 71 points to the Raiders and Packers. Since that time, the Saints have been unstoppable, currently on an eight-game winning streak. More impressively, they’ve done so the last 2 1/2 games without the services of quarterback Drew Brees, who is out with multiple rib fractures. Brees leads the team in passing with 2,196 yards and 18 touchdowns. Running backs Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray have combined for 1,136 yards on the ground and 12 touchdowns, while Taysom Hill has done an adequate job as backup quarterback and has added five touchdowns. Kamara, Emmanuel Sanders and the return of Michael Thomas provide a potent receiving group according to www.lines.com.

In Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers have returned to relevancy this season with the signing of quarterback Tom Brady. After an opening week loss to the Saints, the Buccaneers won six of their next seven games before a rematch against New Orleans. Unfortunately, they got thrashed by a 38-3 score and have now lost three of their last four heading into the final four games of the season. Brady has been solid, throwing for 3,300 yards and 28 touchdowns vs. 11 interceptions. Running back Ronald Jones is having a big season, rushing for 820 yards and five touchdowns. Nine different players have at least 20 receptions and nine have scored touchdowns. Mike Evans has been the main end zone target, scoring 11 times on 48 receptions.

The Atlanta Falcons got off to a disastrous start, losing their first five games, including a late-game debacle against the Dallas Cowboys. They finally got off the mat in week six with a 40-23 win over the Minnesota Vikings. After a one-point last-second loss to the Detroit Lions, the Falcons have won three of their last four, including a 43-6 blowout over the Raiders last week. Matt Ryan is averaging nearly 300 yards per game passing with 17 touchdowns. He’s hit primary targets Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones a combined 99 times for 10 touchdowns. Running back Todd Gurley is looking more like he did earlier in his career, rushing for 610 yards and nine touchdowns. The Falcons have a difficult remaining schedule having to face the Saints, the Chiefs and the Buccaneers twice.

After a 0-2 starting surrendering a combined 65 points to the Raiders and Buccaneers, the Panthers got back on track, winning three games in a row, including two on the road. They have been hit with injuries, most notably to running back Christian McCaffrey, who has missed all but three games. A five-game losing streak included remarkably close contests at New Orleans and Kansas City. After a 20-0 shut out win at home vs. the Lions, the Panthers dropped a one-point decision on the road at Minnesota. Teddy Bridgewater has thrown for 2,816 yards and 14 touchdowns. Robby Anderson, DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel and Mike Davis each have over 50 receptions, and Davis leads the team with 506 yards rushing.

The division is there for the Saints to take. If they do so, it will mark the fourth consecutive season they have won the NFC South.

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