Through Week 6 of the NFL season, a half game separates the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2), Atlanta Falcons (3-3) and New Orleans Saints (3-3) in the NFC South.
The division is still up for grabs as the Falcons head for Tampa Bay on Sunday to take on the Buccaneers. None of the potential division winners have a signature win.
The Falcons’ best win may have been Week 5 against the Houston Texans, who just beat the New Orleans Saints. The Buccaneers have beaten the Vikings (2-4), Bears (1-5), and Saints.
New Orleans has beaten the Titans (2-4), Panthers (0-6), and Patriots (1-5).
The NFC South is wide open, making predictions for the division winner especially difficult.
However, Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano gave it a shot on ESPN+. While they disagreed on the eventual winner, they agreed that it wouldn’t be the Falcons.
“If he could establish any kind of consistency at all, I think the Falcons would be a solid team,” Graziano continued. “First-year defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen has done a good job with that group, and Atlanta’s biggest problem right now seems to be under center. But that’s too big of a problem for me to overlook.
“Yeah, there are some people in the league who believe the talented Falcons are a quarterback away,” wrote Fowler. “If Ridder can grow into that QB, then Atlanta has players to contend.”
Who did Graziano and Fowler pick?
Graziano went with the Saints and Fowler went with the Buccaneers.
I’m still going to pick the Saints here, mainly because I think we haven’t seen them play their best yet,” wrote Graziano. “Derek Carr wasn’t healthy in the Bucs game, and as his shoulder improves and the passing game comes together, I think we’ll see New Orleans get humming at some point. It’s not a comfortable prediction by any stretch, but I’ll take the Saints by a whisker.”
“Give me Bucs,” wrote Folwer. “They get a slight edge on overall talent (though it’s close), and the running game still hasn’t come around, which tells me Tampa Bay’s offensive line is still adjusting to the new scheme under offensive coordinator Dave Canales. There’s room for improvement there over the next few months.”
The Falcons have four games remaining with the Buccaneers and Saints starting this weekend in Tampa. The Buccaneers’ defense has been stout against the run but susceptible to the pass. Tampa ranks No. 7 and No. 26 against the run and pass respectively.
If Atlanta is going to pull off the upset and get back into the conversation for winning the division and going to he playoffs for the fist time since 2017, they’ll need Desmond Ridder to take care of the ball.
He threw three interceptions against a very-beatable Washington Commanders team and has six on the season.
If the Falcons fall to 3-4, the cries for Taylor Heinicke are going to be deafening on Monday. Atlanta doesn’t need Ridder to be prime Matt Ryan.
They just need him to not be a “disaster”.