The good, the bad, and the ugly. Saints, the good, already locked in home field advantage. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Falcons, both the bad, will battle it out. The Panthers, playing ugly, are going for eight losses in a row. The NFC South will roll into the off season with a lot of questions.
Changes are coming.
Dragging to the finish, The Tampa Bay Buccaneers season of hope is lost. There are more questions than answers. One thing we all feel is certain, is the departure of Dirk Koetter. This team has talent, the biggest question is can the next coach utilize players effectively? Which players will give a good showing in week 17 and secure a roster spot next year?
Offense and Defense
Tampa’s offense will face off against a vulnerable Falcons team. Jameis Winston has a chance to finish the season on a strong positive note in this battle. The Falcons are 25th in passing and 27th in rushing yards allowed. Facing that defense will give the Buccaneers an opportunity to show what this offense can do. Lately they have struggled. Winston will have to protect the ball and bury the Falcons in points. It will be interesting to see if DeSean Jackson is allowed to play in this game. He most likely will not be here next season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense held Dak Prescott to only one touchdown and 161 yards. They showed some grit holding Amari Cooper to four catches. They will need to need to do the same against Julio Jones. Unfortunately, history does not bode well for the Buccaneers secondary. Jones has incinerated this team on many occasions. Getting to Matt Ryan will be key. Vita Vea has been stepping up and starting to show flashes of his first-round talent. This week gives him a chance as the Falcons are tied for twelfth in sacks allowed. Via may of been a bright spot of late, but it goes without saying this season the defense has been more than disappointing.
After losing the Super Bowl the Falcons continue to slide backwards.
Reeling from a disappointing season the Falcons find themselves without a playoff birth. They have now gone from appearing in the Super Bowl to losing in the divisional round and now not even playoff bound. Could there be some changes to the staff coming for the Falcons?
Offense and Defense
Julio Jones must be foaming at the mouth to finish the season against this team. Jones will only need one to have his second highest receiving totals in his career. Adding insult to injury he could have his second highest number of yards in a season for his career if he goes over 54 yards. Very achievable numbers. Jones has been the highlight of the Falcons offense this year. Next year it will be priority to establish a run game and get Matt Ryan to utilize his other targets better.
Much like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Falcons defense has been a disappointment. Atlanta ranks in the bottom third of multiple key categories. Coming into the final week they allow 26.1 points per game. With the amount of draft capital invested in this defense fans expected more. Can they stop Winston, playing for his future, from ending the season on a high note? Only the final whistle will tell.
Rest vs Reps
The Saints, coming off a huge win against the Steelers, will host the crumbling Panthers. The question will be this. Do the Saints rest players to be healthy for the playoffs or do they get reps in?
Offense and Defense
Drew Brees and the Saints offense looked to be back in form last week. This week they face a team fighting for their playoff lives. Having won they locked in home field advantage for the post season. Now it should be time to rest some players. This will allow them to come off their bye week fully healthy. This could be a great time for Teddy Bridgewater to show the quarterback hungry teams what he has. He will be a free agent net year and this could go a long way for him to find a lucrative deal.
On defense, the Saints may have been gifted a late Christmas present. With Cam Newton out to get started on resting his injured shoulder the Panthers will start Taylor Heinicke or Kyle Allen. Against the Falcons, Heinicke threw for three interceptions. I would expect more of the same this week even with the Saints resting some starters.
Could this epic collapse reach eight games in a row?
After dropping seven games in a row, the Panthers need to just focus on getting healthy for next season. This is a completely different team with a healthy Cam Newton. It now becomes a question of Norv Turners utilization of Cam and his talents. Can Cam survive a full season being run the way he was this season? Are the hits catching up with him?
Offense and Defense
The Offense has died. Coming into week 17 Taylor Heinicke showed he is not the answer as a back up quarter back. Kyle Allen will most likely produce the same result if he starts. This offense’s only hope is that the Saints rest as many starters as possible. The only strength of the offense, Christian McCaffrey. Mccafrey only needs four yards to have 1,500 receiving yards in his first two years in the league. He will not be able to carry the team on his back in Newton’s absence. This game should be a low scoring affair for the Panthers.
Most likely facing the Saints backups the Panthers should excited about their match up. Or should they be leery? The Saints back up quarter back, Teddy Bridgewater, is an intelligent, seasoned quarter back with starter potential. The Panthers have their own defender with a high football I.Q. Stud Luke Kuechly. The two will have a chess match at the line of scrimmage. Playing for pride we will see who outsmarts the other.
On a personal note I want to thank the FPC team for allowing me to jump on board. It’s been fun this year being a part of this team. I have grown as a writer and have enjoyed this experience! Thank you all!!!