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NFC South Roundup: Week 14

Mark Menard
December 09, 2018 - 9:07 am

Week 14 in the NFC South could see the division race come to a close if the first-place Saints have anything to say about it. At 10-2, New Orleans has a ton of motivation heading into their trip to Tampa. Chief among those, the chance to lock up their second straight NFC South title. In their 51-year history, the Saints have never taken their division crown two years in a row. They'll check that off the franchise bucket list if they win today. Beyond that, the Saints are coming off of a horrific performance on offense, and they've have 10 days to stew about it. It's also just the second time this season the Saints take the field coming off of a loss, and they step into a rematch with the team that handed them their season-opening defeat.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers once upon a time led the division, way back in the heady days of early September. That 2-0 seems a lifetime ago, but the Bucs have been trending upward the last couple of weeks, thanks largely to the fact that they've stopped treating the football like it was laced with an incurable virus. Cutting down on mistakes and turnovers suddenly has the 5-7 Buccaneers on a two-game winning streak, but to keep that run going, they'll have to prove that their Week 1 defeat of New Orleans was more than an odd anomaly.

While the Saints are still sitting pretty even after a loss and the Bucs are enjoying some recent success, the Carolina Panthers are decidedly trending downward. A four-game skid has caused a shakeup on the coaching staff, with a pair of defensive assistant coaches handed their pink slips this week and Coach Ron Rivera taking over defensive playcalling duties. And the suddenly-leaky defense may not even be their biggest problem with the team's most important player, quarterback Cam Newton, also nursing an injured shoulder. The early season strides Newton made in Norv Turner's offense have been walked back a bit, and he's thrown at least one pick in each of the Panthers' last four games. Now Carolina travels to face a young and hungry Browns team that's won two of their last three. A Carolina loss would not just gift-wrap the division title for the Saints. It would also put a serious dent in the Panthers' postseason hopes.

The Falcons also travel north today in a game that doesn't hold the allure it might have at the start of the season. They're in Green Bay for a battle of four-win squads that were both supposed to be playoff contenders. For Atlanta, of course, the story has been more than their share of injuries depleting their roster, especially on defense. For the Packers, the reasons for failure are a bit more nebulous, but the result has been, at least for starters, the end of Mike McCarthy's 13-season tenure as head coach. With Joe Philbin taking the reins until the end of the season, will the Pack be galvanized by this sudden wake-up call? Or will the Falcons start the season's fourth quarter by ending the skid that lasted the entirety of the season's third quarter?

All three games kick off at noon. We'll have full coverage of Saints-Buccaneers on WWL starting with the Bud Light Countdown to Kickoff at 10am.


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