NFC South report: Hey, where did everybody go?

Matt Ryan couldn't be stopped by Carolina. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Matt Ryan completed 13 straight passes at one point against Carolina Sunday. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The most remarkable thing about the Falcons starting 2-0 for only the seventh time in franchise history is that they failed to make the playoffs in four of the previous six seasons it happened. (The most recent tumble: Jim Mora’s exit season of 7-9 in 2006.)

But given the way things are shaping up in the NFC South, chances of the team taking a significant dive seem minimal. Tampa Bay has dropped off the face of the earth. Carolina is close behind. New Orleans? Not going anywhere.

Onto this week’ check behind enemy lines in the NFC South.

New Orleans (2-0)

Drew Brees should just start his own league. He has nine touchdown passes in two games. (AP photo)

Drew Brees should just start his own league. He has nine touchdown passes in two games. (AP photo)

The Falcons’ secondary has six weeks before they have to face the Saints. Might as well rest up now.

While it’s true New Orleans’ two wins have come over a 0-16 team from last season (Detroit) and another that was missing its starting quarterback (Philadelphia), the Saints’ offense has been somewhat ridiculous. They have outscored opponents, 93-49. They  lead the league in points and offense (468 yards per game).

You think Matt Ryan has been good? Drew Brees has thrown for 669 yards and nine touchdowns. He has a quarterback efficiency rating of 132.9. Just two points higher and he’s officially a lab creation.

The Saints seemed to have learned something after losing five games of three points or less last season, which buried their playoff chances at 8-8. Former Georgia tackle Jonathan Stinchcomb told ESPN.com, “We have wallowed around at 8-8 and 7-9 since that NFC championship game [two years ago]. And that has left a bad taste in our mouths. But we also don’t want to make the same mistakes that we’ve made in the past. We feel like we’re a special team and we shouldn’t be hanging around .500.”

Safety Darren Sharper told the New Orleans Times-Picayuene: “We want to have the mentality that if we have a team down,  we want to stomp on their throat and not let them come back.”

Carolina (0-2)

Here's John Fox, trying to think of something good to say in the post-game again. (AP photo)

Here's John Fox, trying to think of something good to say in the post-game again. (AP photo)

The only thing more surprising than the fact the Panthers already have lost half as many games as they did last season (12-4) is how accepting they seem of it. Coach John Fox said after Sunday’s loss to the Falcons, “I think we saw some things we can build on.”

Defensive tackle Damoine Lewis said, “We’re finding our stroke.”

Offensive tackle Jordan Gross told the Burlington Times, “There’s nothing that’s good in a loss, but I’m happy for Jake [Delhomme] and I’m happy for our offense a little bit after we did so poorly last week. At least we let us have a chance to be in the game this week.”

Gee, can we set the bar just a little bit lower?

Lewis had high praise for Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, saying: “Dude was getting rid of the ball so fast. We just could not get to him.”

Tampa Bay (0-2)

Tampa Bay's defense has even made Terrell Owens seem relevant again. (AP photo)

Tampa Bay's defense has even made Terrell Owens seem relevant again. (AP photo)

We figured going into the season the Bucs would be the division’s worst team. Now we know it.

New defensive coordinator Jim Bates — a disaster as the Falcons’ coordinator for one season in 1994gets the Willie Martinez award. The Bucs lost to Buffalo, 33-20, after losing to Dallas, 34-21. That’s 67 points and 900 yards in two games allowed by a defense that used to be the NFL’s standard.

Bills running back Fred Jackson, who I’m fairly certain went undrafted in every Fantasy League, rushed for 163 yards in Sunday’s game. The Bucs even were called for four facemask penalties. Who gets called for four facemask penalties?

My pal Gary Shelton of the St. Petersburg Times summed up the wreckage best, writing: “Exactly how long does the thrashing continue? Will the Bucs win four times this year? Will they win two? Will they win any? Admit it: You thought about 0-16, didn’t you? Such are the questions that come to mind after watching a second straight drubbing.”

58 comments Add your comment

doggy

September 21st, 2009
2:21 pm

Panthers will be better this year… don’t give up just yet. However, the Falcons win the division.

Mr. Phil

September 21st, 2009
2:21 pm

Coop

September 21st, 2009
2:23 pm

Doesn’t look like the NFC South will be the toughest this year.

Mr. Phil

September 21st, 2009
2:24 pm

What does it take to be first around here? Anyway, Panthers aren’t dead, the Saints are scary but not invulnerable, and the Bucs are dead as doornails. We need to start looking in other divisions for competition.

DJ

September 21st, 2009
2:26 pm

I’m with you Jeff – the N.O. “Chuck and Duck” offense is going nowhere. I seem to recall Drew Brees chucking and ducking in game 16 last year for some sort of record. Brees threw for 300+ here in the ATL last year; that stat is 400+ if you count the return yards for Chevis Jackson’s pick 6. There are alot of teams out there too quick on defense to let Drew Brees “play sandlot ball” (his words not mine) through 16 regular season games.

htownbravesfan

September 21st, 2009
2:39 pm

I read the AJC site because I am a Braves fan, but being from New Orleans, I have to comment on the Saints. To say they are “going nowhere” is an absurd statement. I don’t think they have the defensive capabilities to win it all, but they will overrun enough opponents to get to at least ten or eleven wins. This is a playoff team, as are the Falcons. Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but these teams split their matchups last year. So, how can you just toss the Saints to the side? Hold your horses on the Falcons until they play a team with any offensive abilities, which the Dolphins and Panthers, two playoff teams who are definitely in line to take a step backwards, are not.

DK

September 21st, 2009
2:55 pm

htownbravesfan,

I agree with most of what you said and I certainly am not writing the Saints off either. The Falcons and Saints are looking early like the two best teams in the NFC. I look forward to the two playing each other this year.

I do take exception with the statement that the Falcons have not faced a team with no offensive abilities. The two teams the Falcons have faced are essentially unchanged from last year, and they had a combined regular season record of 33 – 9. You don’t win that many games with “no offensive abilities”. One only needs to look at the talent these teams have on offense to realize this. S. Smith, R. Williams, R. Brown, D. Williams are some of the best in the league at their positions.

Personally, when I think of all the years that the Falcons and the Saints spent being jokes in the league, I’m glad to finally see its our turn.

True Fan

September 21st, 2009
2:56 pm

I think he meant “going nowhere” as in, they are really good and won’t be going down hill.

Marcus

September 21st, 2009
3:07 pm

same thought, True Fan. I believe that is what Jeff meant by NO not going anywhere (as in not going away anytime soon), not that he can’t speak for himself.

N.O. Saints and the Falcons probaby split popular votes from NFL pundits as pre-season NFC South favorite. N.O. might have gotten the slight nod as they got a new def. coordinator with a great rep and we jettisoned 5 def. starters for 1st and 2nd year players, unitl the late pre-season addition of Tye Hill and Brian Williams.

Bad News

September 21st, 2009
3:15 pm

PRESEASON IS OFFICIALLY OVER:

Miami………….over

Carolina……………..over

The real conenders start this weekend. Playing in the dome against week offenses and suspect defenses were extended by the Miami & Carolina weak offenses and defenses who could not find their way out of AA ball.

Now it’s time to go on the road and deal with a pissed off New England team. That will be the start of 6 out of 8 games on the ROAD against the meat of the season.

Scheduling Miami & Carolina is both good and bad. The good is having a 2-0 record. The bad is building false hope that this team can actually compete with the elite teams such as New England, Giants, Philly, New Orleans, Dallas, Buffalo and Jets, etc.

I could bash NOODLE ARM but for the next 9 weeks he is going to see what the REAL NFL is really about – no more weak teams on the remaining schedule.

I’ll be in touch guys

P.S. Another win for Flacco vs a Superbowl contender!

Freshmaker

September 21st, 2009
3:26 pm

The Chargers were never going to be a Super Bowl contender. Don’t kid yourself.

Panties in a wad

September 21st, 2009
3:27 pm

Ledbetter is reporting Jerry is out for the year. That sux. :(

Panties in a wad

September 21st, 2009
3:31 pm

1.Falcons 11-5
2.Saints 10-6
3.Panthers 7-9
4.Buccos 5-11

saintsfans

September 21st, 2009
3:35 pm

The Saints are 5-1 against the Falcons the last 3 years. Both defenses are playing better than expected. But the Falcons dont want shoot out. They want to play good sound defense and Run Turner, and give the ball to Gonzo. The 8 and 9 man fronts have prevented big run for Turner and Roddy been doubled. The key to the Saints run will be consistant running game and defensive turnover. We got too many weapons. Mike Bell, Perre, Reggie, and The DEFENSE are the keys to the Saints success

Ed-Covington

September 21st, 2009
3:43 pm

I agree the Birds win the South, MB; but disagree with your blog.
You say: “New Orleans? Not going anywhere.”

Then you proceed to talk about how great Brees is and their new attitude with no indication of why you think: “New Orleans? Not going anywhere.”

saintsfans

September 21st, 2009
4:03 pm

We’ll wait until the Falcons have two straight winning seasons, Until then ill say Saints win NFC South

Ryno

September 21st, 2009
4:20 pm

Bad News – You said “scheduling Miami and Carolina is both good and bad.” The Falcons had no say whatsoever in their schedule! The league hands down schedules on a rotational basis and we would have had to play Carolina anyway since their in our division.

Geez – if you’re going to come here and talk trash, at least learn a little bit about how the NFL league rules work.

collegeballfan

September 21st, 2009
4:20 pm

saintsfans

No one doubles White anymore – reason Gonzalez. If Saints want to double him, wonderful.

Tech alum

September 21st, 2009
4:20 pm

Saintsfans, dude, give me a break with the 5-1 record against the Falcons in the last 3 years. The only statistic of relevance is the 1-1 record from last year. Are you really trying to use the Joey Harrington, Byron Leftwich and Chris Redman Falcon years as a measuring stick on how the current Falcons stack up against the current Saints???? Give me a freaking break.

I say bring on the Aints! And congrats on your win yesterday against a McNabb-less Philly team. But you guys will find a way to wet your pants down the stretch like you always do. We, on the other hand, are building a championship contender for years to come here in the A.

Dirty Birds

September 21st, 2009
4:24 pm

Once the aints, always the aints. Abraham is gonna rip that ugly mole off of Brees face.

Flaming Punter

September 21st, 2009
4:28 pm

I think you Saint gripers all missed the boat – feel certain that when the author wrote “New Orleans? Not going anywhere.” that he meant they wouldn’t be going away, not that they were losers. Geez.

Russ

September 21st, 2009
4:29 pm

Bad News – I believe you picked Atlanta to lose to Carolina. A real man would stand up and eat some crow for that, but someone like you just comes back and ignores the fact that the Falcons made him look like a fool. Whether the games were at home or not, the Falcons are 2-0 with both wins coming against teams that just won their divisions last season. Hardly a cupcake schedule IMO.

F-105 Thunderchief

September 21st, 2009
4:32 pm

I may be wrong, but I don’t think Raheem Morris, Todd Haley and Josh McDaniels are going to be the next Mike Tomlin, Mike Smith and John Harbaugh.

sonnys crops

September 21st, 2009
4:39 pm

one hopes sonnys crops are ok, with the flooding and whatall.

Bad News

September 21st, 2009
4:43 pm

Falcons beat the Saints? Are you people on drugs? Brees lit up the Eagles and their top 10 defense – the Falcons are not even in the Eagles area code :)

You gave up 452 yards against Jake “I can’t stop throwing interceptions” Delhomme and top it off you lost your starting Nose Tackle.

Drew Brees is going to have a field day!

But one matter will be settled in the next 3 weeks, and that is why the Falcons made the wrong pick in qbs in last year’s draft.

The Patriots’ next 2 games are against the FALCONS & RAVENS…… Finally we can put to rest that “B.S.” that NOODLE ARM is better than Joe Flacco…………… NO MORE EXCUSES :)

CHOKE vs WINNER !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bad News

September 21st, 2009
4:45 pm

F-105 Thunderchief

You are absolutely right – Mike Tomlin & John Harbough made it to the championship game and Smitty was 1 AND DONE :)

fldawg

September 21st, 2009
4:49 pm

I drafted Fred Jackson late, i actually thought it was fred taylor who i was drafting, best mistake i ve made in a long time

Flaming Punter

September 21st, 2009
5:04 pm

Saints troll. Wow. I wonder what compels anyone to go to another team’s blog and talk smack when their team is doing well. Boredom? I do know they all disappear when their team loses, and sooner or later a loss will come.

SimpleDawg

September 21st, 2009
5:20 pm

Raheem Morris is no Mike Tomlin….more like Lily Tomlin.

It’s gonna be a loooong year for the Bucs…maybe they should bring back Bucco Bruce and the orange sherbet uniforms.

The Saints will be a problem….unless someone blows up Brees. If he stays healthy, they can out score almost any other team in the league. The team that beats the Saints will put lots of pressure on Brees and take away his passing lanes.

The Falcons defensive staff must have been setting up the Panthers and Jake Delhomme for the next game in Charlotte….because they certainly were given Carte Blanche with our secondary. Shhhhh….I hope we blitz the $#!+ out of them next time. I’m sure our plan was to stop the run and make Delhomme beat us….well, he almost did.

Thank God for Tony Gonzalez.

bill dart

September 21st, 2009
5:32 pm

OH BOY, now writers are making fun uga and willie by comparison of how bad the defense is in consecutive losses—he has to go

now tha't funny

September 21st, 2009
5:42 pm

Bad News, should the NFL investigate that thing on Brees face? Is that some kind of radar that allows him to find open receivers. You can bet your a$$ that Tom Brady will have him a “mole” before the season is over. Vick got thrown in prison for fighting dogs and this man has a GPS on the field. Wow.

The reason the Saints will fold is because they are, well, the Saints. Brees and his face cousin are both out for themselves, not the team.

CharlieAlphaBravo

September 21st, 2009
5:54 pm

I drafted Fred Jackson…

Paddy

September 21st, 2009
6:01 pm

ed covington… that was a positive statement about NO not a negative comment. I’m pretty sure about that.

htownbravesfan

September 21st, 2009
6:02 pm

Now tha’t funny, you are an absolute moron. Anyone who will attack the mole on Brees’ face obviously has no substance to their argument. Furthermore, if you take away the Super Bowl run in ‘98 (which, granted, is one more than the Saints), it’s not as if the Falcons have had a storied NFL franchise. Come back when you have something to say about something that actually has an effect on the outcome of the game.

David

September 21st, 2009
6:06 pm

BAD NEWS,

Super Bowl contender? Wasn’t that “Super Bowl” contender about five minutes away from missing the playoffs (in a terrible division, mind you) last year, until Tampa Bay choked the game away in Week 16? If you think San Diego is a “Super Bowl” contender, then you’re kidding yourself. And last time I checked, Miami’s defense and Carolina’s defense were both better than San Diego’s defense and KC’s defense last year. So while you think Flacco is all that, keep in mind that KC just lost to Oakland, and San Diego barely beat them.

That really isn’t saying much. So we’ll keep “Noodle Arm.” And while we’re comparing, it should be noted that, against tougher defenses, Matt Ryan has 5 touchdowns, 1 interception, a 108.5 QB rating, and is completing over 68% of his passes.

Strong Arm Flacco, who’s playing worse defenses, has 5 touchdowns, 2 picks, a 96.1 QB rating, and is barely completing over 60% of his passes.

It’s nice that his arm, is stronger, though; that said, we’ll take accuracy and good decision making over the ability to throw it 80 yards. If that’s your argument, then give me JaMarcus Russell.

David

September 21st, 2009
6:09 pm

BAD NEWS,

One last thing: Last year Drew Brees threw for 400 yards on us. We won the game. If he wants to chuck it up 50 times and have 400 yards, that’s fine; we’ll take the 3 interceptions that come along with it.

PS: Put the best defense in the league at Ryan’s back, and we’d be unbeatable. Flacco is simply a handoff-and-don’t-give-the-game-away dummy.

willdave

September 21st, 2009
6:26 pm

“Bad News,” I think we’ve all figured out where you’re coming from. The Falcons could go 19-0 and win the SB and you would still find something negative to say about them, no matter how outrageous it is.

Only a person who has completely lost touch with reality would dare suggest that our front office erred in drafting Matt Ryan, who has been nothing but stellar since he arrived in Atlanta. Even you have to realize how truly outrageous your argument is.

If you love that sadistic convict so much, you should just start following his antics in Philly and forget about us. The overwhelming majority of this readership supports Mr. Blank, TD, Smitty, Matty Ice and the rest of our Falcons 100%. No outrageous remark that you post on these message boards that will ever change that.

DamYankee

September 21st, 2009
6:30 pm

BAD NEWS: I hope you have the ‘nads to tell us all what crow tastes like when the time comes, but I doubt it.

And, WTF were the Falcons doing in the last 2 minutes Sunday? Jake should never have been close enough to throw up a prayer in the end zone! Play prevent if you think it’ll work, but with under 2 minutes left the name of the game is RUN THE CLOCK! Protect the sidelines instead of playing two backs 20-30 yards off the ball and allowing 4 or 5 10-15 yard completions on the sideline to stop the clock. I thought I was gonna have the big one, Lizbeth!

Habersham Dawg

September 21st, 2009
6:52 pm

You know, I’ve seen Bad News flame the Birds a couple a times, and he has a man-crush on Flacco, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen who his team is? Does he only support whoever is playing the Falcons?

den

September 21st, 2009
7:09 pm

If Jerry is out, are we still ok with johnson and lewis switching out at nose tackle ?

Bull Butter

September 21st, 2009
7:17 pm

We have only played 2 games theres 14 game left.some teams get better some get worst over that lenth of time,How anybody can predict who will win the nfc south is crazy.we want know anything about teams and thier direction untill about 7 games into the season.injuries team chemistree take thier toll after a while.how ever after saying that i believe the falcons are on the right track. but i also believe that carolina will be there in the thick of things come the end of the season and that tampa will get it togather and win a few games allso.Its a long season folks hang on and enjoy the ride.

T Rock

September 21st, 2009
7:23 pm

Bad News – why don’t you go to the Eagles blog and the Revens blog and spew your garbage. I can only assume that you are an instigator because no one could be as ignorant as you seem. Oh yea Mike called and wanted to tell you that his new dogs love Puppy Chow but for some reason his electicity bill spikes when he “plays” with them, and he also said don’t drink out of that water bottle he used to carry and don’t use his alias Ron Mexico because his phone might be tapped and he wasn’t shooting us a bird and he really didn’t lie to Federal Agents, Roger Goddell, Arthur Blank, and the Falcon Nation, etc. etc. etc. Him going to jail was the best thing to happen to this franchise since we were started in 1966. Put that in your crack pipe and smoke it!!! How about you going out to Flowery Branch and letting “noodle arm” throw you a few and Curtis Lofton knock some reality into you!! If you are going to pick against the Falcons every week you might be right once or twice but admit when you are wrong.

Bad News

September 21st, 2009
7:51 pm

DAVID

Well Flacco & NOODLE ARM play the Patriots the next 2 games, so I guess we will find out now won’t we?

NO MORE EXCUSES :)

Bad News

September 21st, 2009
7:55 pm

Habersham Dog

Since you asked, I was a Falcons fan from 1980-2006. Now I’m a “Who’s playing the Falcons” fan – PERIOD! :)

Bad News

September 21st, 2009
8:00 pm

PERIA JERRY – Down!

I love how a plan comes together :)

Thomas Dimitroff has to be the 2nd dumbest (NOODLE ARM 1ST) idiot in the NFL!

How & why in hell do you draft 2-injury prone players? That is the most stupid thing in the world.

Moore & Jerry – where are they?

Oh on the IR – What a genius :)

Flaming Punter

September 21st, 2009
8:20 pm

What a choad

Flaming Punter

September 21st, 2009
8:22 pm

ignore choads

Cannonball Butler

September 21st, 2009
9:57 pm

You were never a Falcons fan and the Falcons don’t want you either, cupcake.

Worse News

September 22nd, 2009
3:56 am

I’ll tell you why Atlanta will win the NFC South… Tampa Bay is non threatening but is able to to win at home against in division opponents. The saints can throw for 1000 yards a game and drew brees won’t make it a whole season. His TD/INT ratio will start closing the gap. The saint’s have absolutely no running game witch the falcons who have the fastest defense in the NFL will shut down all of drews check downs and slugo routes. And the saints D will not be able to get the falcons off the field. Beat drew brees by not letting Him taste the Astroturf. 3 the panthers beat the saints twice last year. I say repeat of steve smith burning them all game long both times.

As for the pats- No Mayo, No seymour, Tom Brady will not be able to take the pressure of a 4-3 defense. <<<<Same D as Chicago. Topped with speed, John Abraham, Mike peterson (who may be the biggest offseason acquisition by the falcons (except TG). Tom Brady throws two INTs, 1 fumble and no running game. Suprise upset Pick of the week.

Falcons Blow out the pats 41 – 24

hiramsaint

September 22nd, 2009
5:58 pm

falcons 41-24 over the pats ? did the flood wash your brains away? try it the other way around pats 41-falcons 24 and the latter is a huge maybe