Carolina Panthers stay undefeated, Atlanta Falcons keep up heat in NFC South race


All of a sudden, the NFC South looks to be one of the strongest divisions in the league, in terms of wins at least. It’s tight at the top between the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons, and are the New Orleans Saints ready to make some noise?

Falcons sloppy, but get the job done: It wasn’t pretty, but it was enough. The Falcons have a lot to fix. A lot. Matt Ryan is in a funk and struggling to find any kind of rhythm, but it doesn’t help when your receivers drop seemingly everything thrown their way.

To put up 10 points against any team is unacceptable, and you don’t deserve to win a game in which you do. Fortunately, the Titans were even worse, but at least they had an excuse. But the win column doesn’t care how you do it, a 10-7 win over the Titans counts the same as a 50-0 win over the Packers.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done on offense, and I can guarantee head coach Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan are not happy and will be working overtime to get it right. Ryan’s been off color, there has been no legitimate threat at receiver outside of Julio Jones and we’ve seen far too many mistakes.

But the Falcons are 6-1, and live to fight another day.

Panthers remain perfect, and this time without Cam: Cam Newton carried his team to a 5-0 start, but it was the play around him that took them to 6-0. Newton went 14-of-24 for 197 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions.

But hello Panthers run game, and hello Jonathan Stewart. Stewart posted his first 100-yard performance of the season, piling on 125 yards from 24 carries. Fullback Mike Tolbert punched in a touchdown.

The defense slowed down the Eagles passing game, sacking quarterback Sam Bradford five times, picking him off once and the unit didn’t allow a single passing touchdown. A 63-yard touchdown run by Ryan Mathews inflated the rushing numbers, but Philadelphia averaged just 3.9 yards per carry outside of that.

Carolina will be favorites to take down the struggling Indianapolis Colts at home next week, but the real challenge is in Week 9 when Green Bay comes to town.

Oct 25, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) throws from deep in Indianapolis Colts territory during the second half at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Saints show some fight, dominate Colts: All of a sudden, the Saints look alive. The offense has shifted up a gear with running back Mark Ingram, who had 14 carries for 143 yards and a touchdown against the Colts on Sunday.

This took pressure off Drew Brees, who finished 28-of-44 for 255 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Early in the third quarter, the Saints were up 27-0 and the game was sealed.

Indianapolis boosted its numbers late on, but the game was all but over. New Orleans avoided a Buccaneers-style collapse to win and improve to 3-4. Still three games behind the Panthers and Falcons, but the Saints are now just a game behind the Minnesota Vikings, who are currently in the NFC’s No. 6 seed spot.

Bucs snatch defeat from jaws of victory: Rookie quarterback Jameis Winston went 21-of-29 for 297 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Doug Martin rushed 19 times for 136 yards and the Buccaneers held a 24-0 lead in the second quarter.

But they lost.

The defense had no answer for a rallying Washington offense, and Tampa Bay remains on two wins for the season. It’s a process for the Buccaneers, but losses like this must hurt.

Looking ahead: Atlanta and Carolina both chase its seventh win on the season, which would beat last year’s win total for the Falcons and match it for the Panthers.

The Falcons host the rival Buccaneers, while the Panthers stay home to take on the 3-4 Colts. New Orleans looks to stay afloat in the NFC playoff picture with a tough test from the up-and-down New York Giants.

Week 8 is a big week for the NFC South, and the division’s hunt for postseason football.

Next: Falcons fantasy outlook entering Week 8

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