Grades for the NFC South

kenBy: Kenneth Harrison Jr.

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

We’re in Week 8 of the NFL season so it’s about half way over. We have an idea who the contenders and pretenders are around the league. I’m going to take a look at the NFC South and see what grade each team earns on their midterm.

Atlanta (5-3) is first place in the division. Last season they had the same record after their first eight games. We all remember them starting hot and winning their first five games but only finishing 8-8. It appeared they might be doing the same this year after loses to Seattle and San Diego in consecutive weeks.

They scored in the final seconds to beat Green Bay 33-32. We think of Green Bay as an elite team but they are dealing with several injuries. Their top two running backs were out and they also did not have two receivers (Randall Cobb & Ty Montgomery). So, Aaron Rodgers was still able to throw for 246 yards, 4 touchdowns, no interceptions, complete 74% of his passes and rush for 60 yards with a depleted offense. That’s scary.

The defense is 25th in the league in total defense. The offense ranks first. The defense has to play better to make the Falcons contenders. They gave up a 17-point lead to the Chargers last week. They also came back to take a fourth quarter lead at Seattle but they could not stop the Seahawks offense. They could easily be 7-1 right now. I give them a B-.

Tampa Bay (3-4) is tied for second in the division. The Buccaneers are dealing with injuries to their top two running backs, Doug Martin and Charles Sims. Jacquizz Rodgers played well the last three weeks but suffered a foot injury in Sunday’s overtime loss to Oakland. He may also miss some time. Receiver Vincent Jackson was placed on injured reserve with an ACL injury.

The Bucs are shorthanded so understandably they are having problems moving the ball and being consistent on offense. Their ranked 16th in total offense and 26th in total defense. They swept Atlanta last season and beat them in the season opener. They play the Falcons at home Thursday night and a win will put them back in the playoff hunt. Expectations were low before the season started so I give Tamp Bay a C.

New Orleans (3-4) is tied with the Bucs. They had the upset of the week, beating Seattle at home. The Saints are second in the NFL in total offense and Drew Brees is still one of the best quarterbacks even in his late 30’s. He’s third in the league in passing yards and he’s completing 70% of his passes.

Have you noticed a theme yet with the defenses? It’s like a competition to see who can do worse. New Orleans is winning that with the 28th unit in total defense. The Saints finished 7-9 the last two years. I think head coach Sean Payton is in danger of being fired with another losing record. Grade: C-.

Carolina (2-5) has not lived up to expectations in 2016. The Panthers are the defending NFC Champions and they had the best record in the NFL last year at 15-1. They used to take team pics on the sideline and Cam Newton would smile and ‘dab’ after scores. Now things aren’t going so well. They lost cornerback Josh Norman and the secondary really misses him.

They gave up 300 yards to Julio Jones in Week 4 and currently rank 20th in total defense. Grade: F.