Through The Spyglass: Reviewing the NFC South Pre-Season Week One

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NFC South

As fans, we obsess about our teams. Who they’re signing, what they’re planning, how they’re playing. But we often overlook what’s going on with other teams and how it affects the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Particularly the teams within our division. Here are some of the bigger story lines worth keeping an eye on for the Buccaneers faithful.

Falcons Fall Flat vs Jets

Every year we talk about how preseason scores don’t matter. Keep in mind that the Lions went 4-0 in the preseason the same year they went 0-16. This would be a prime example of scores in these games not being important. Even though the high flying Falcons got shut out in their first preseason game vs the Jets, 17-0, I wouldn’t write them off just yet.

Matt Ryan played in only the first drive where he looked fine in his two pass attempts. The offensive line didn’t look especially good, the Jets are a team that is fairly strong defensively. The drive might have been more successful, but two penalties backed them up and caused them to go three and out.

Overall, Atlanta looked like a team that hadn’t played a game in several months. That’s to be expected in the first preseason game. I fully expect them to shake off the rust in the coming weeks and be prepared to make a run at the NFC South title come the regular season. This is still the team to beat for the Bucs.

Are the Panthers in Trouble?

The Panthers won their first preseason game against the Bills, but their starters didn’t look very impressive. Sure there were a few guys who looked good. For example, second year running back Christian McCaffery looked stronger and ready to take on a larger workload this season. However, their biggest stars did not shine.

Starting with Cam Newton. He looked as inaccurate as ever. He had several overthrows and a would be interception that hit a defender in the shoulder. This may be a case of rust, or even lack of focus considering he had exchanged unpleasant words with former teammate Kelvin Benjamin before the game. It could also be that Newton is learning a new offense and is thinking too much. Either way, it’s not a good start for a guy who is already one of the least accurate passers in the NFL.

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As bad as things were on the offensive end, they were even worse defensively. The Panthers starting defense was picked apart by the Bills and starting quarterback with Nathan Peterman for a long touchdown drive. That’s right, the same Nathan Peterman who has more games with five interceptions than he does games where he’s thrown for 100 yards. Not a good look for a defensive unit that has a new staff running the show.

All in all, a concerning start for the Panthers. They have plenty of time to get things on track, but based on the first game they look a little vulnerable.

Clash of the Titans

Normally this segment will focus on the goings on around the competition in the NFC South. However, with the Bucs joining the Titans for practice this week, it only seemed fitting to put the spotlight on Tennessee. Specifically, the Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota,

You may remember the great debate on whether the Bucs should draft Mariota or Jameis Winston with the first overall pick in 2015. Obviously, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took Winston and the Titans took Mariota with the very next pick. Since then, the two have both been fairly successful and the debate has raged on if the Bucs made the right choice or not.

After coming off a season where Mariota threw more interceptions than touchdowns, there has been a lot of optimism about this year. He has a new coaching staff to guide him and had a full healthy offseason to improve. With that said, it’s been a mixed bag for him this offseason. He has looked very good at times, but has been inaccurate at others. If he doesn’t turn things around and get back to the form he showed early in his career then the Winston vs Mariota debate may be over sooner than expected.

Saints Dodge a Bullet.

On Wednesday the Saints got a major scare during practice when they almost lost one of their big resignings. Defensive end Alex Okofor went down with an injury that looked pretty serious. It was initially feared that he tore his ACL and that his season would be over. Luckily, it turned out to only be a sprained knee.

This is obviously great news. You never want to see a guy get injured like that, not even when it’s a rival team. However, the news of a knee sprain could actually benefit the Bucs. It’s not a serious injury, but the recovery time can range from 2-4 weeks or in more severe cases it can take months to recover. Either way, there is a good chance this key pass rusher won’t be available for the week one match up.

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