The first quarter of the 2018 NFL is in the books and the NFC South has taken shape, in a sense. The New Orleans Saints sit atop the division with the Carolina Panthers one game out and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two games away from first place.
Quarterly Review – Carolina Panthers
Carolina is off to as good of a start as they could have hoped for. Despite injuries along the offensive line, the Panthers have gone 3-1 to start the year and are currently in second place in the NFC South. A big part of that has been the play of their defense. Carolina has only allowed 91 points through four games. That’s good for sixth in the NFL and they rank 13th in points allowed per game, both of which are best in the NFC South.
On the other side of the coin, they actually rank statistically better in offense where they land at 12th in points scored per game. This balanced attack led by the defense has certainly been a recipe for success, thus far.
Carolina has gone through what I believe is the easiest portion of their schedule. Their wins have come over the Cowboys, Giants, and Bengals (none of which are teams that I expect to make the playoffs). Things will be getting more difficult in the weeks ahead.
Four of the next six games are on the road for the Panthers. At Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Detroit. The two games at home in that span are against Baltimore and Tampa Bay. These are all difficult games, most of which the Panthers wouldn’t likely be favored. If they can go 3-3 or better in these next six games then it might be time to consider them a legitimate playoff threat.
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Quarterly Review – Atlanta Falcons
I don’t want to judge the Falcons too harshly because they have been bitten by the injury bug in a big way. Losing star defensive players is never something you can plan for and even with decent depth, you can never really replace them. However, there is no other way to describe their season up to this point other than a total failure.
At 1-4, Atlanta’s playoff hopes are as good as dead. Despite still having a very dangerous offense, the defense can’t stop anybody right now to take advantage of the points being scored.
If the Falcons are to have any chance of making a late playoff push, they have to get things turned around right now. The upcoming game versus the Bucs is “do or die” for Atlanta. The next four games after that are all very winnable. They’ll play the Giants, Redskins, Browns, and Cowboys.
The Falcons need to win all of these games to claw back into the race. If they can beat Tampa this week, then they’ll have a legitimate shot to do that. If not, maybe its time to start thinking about the offseason in Atlanta.
Quarterly Review – New Orleans Saints
After being torched by the Bucs in week one and squeaking by the Browns in week two, everything has been going the Saints’ way. Drew Brees has set the all-time record in passing yards and has led New Orleans on a four game winning streak in the process. They now sit atop of the NFC South standings and are looking playoff bound.
With all that being said, we will learn how good the Saints really are in the coming weeks. At Baltimore, at Minnesota, and hosting the undefeated Rams in the next three weeks is as brutal of a schedule, within that span, in the NFC. These are teams that not only have playoff goals, but realistic chances of winning the NFC. We already know the Saints are good, but we will know if they are truly elite in the weeks to come.