By Kate Arhar // @ClvlndK8
The first quarter – four weeks – of the 2019 NFL season is in the book and the NFC South division is wide open.
Leading the way at 3-1, the New Orleans Saints might be heavily favored to keep the top spot, but the injury to quarterback Drew Brees leading to Teddy Bridgewater under center doesn’t make that a sure thing. Tied for second place at 2-2 are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cam Newton-less Carolina Panthers.
That leaves the Atlanta Falcons in last place at 1-3 which may be one of the biggest surprises at this point of the season.
Let’s take a close look at Week 4.
The Saints win without a touchdown, the Panthers win with a backup QB losing 3 fumbles, the Buccaneers score 55 (on the defending NFC champs) and Matt Ryan goes 35 for 53 for 397 yards and 0 TDs. The NFC South is something this year.
— Jeffrey Collins (@JSCollinsAP) September 30, 2019
Each QB threw one interception and zero touchdowns. Saints defense held star running back Ezekiel Elliott to 35 yards but he managed the game’s lone TD with a one-yard rush. Luckily, Saints kicker Will Lutz was in the zone and put up four field goals for the win. While the Saints offense is clearly not clicking yet with Bridgewater, at least their defense is something that could guide them through the next few weeks.
They face Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Chicago, and Arizona before their bye week. Ideally, Brees will be back after that and they could very well by 5-3 when he returns. Not too shabby.
And it was never that close. QB Jameis Winston looked pretty darn good with four TDs and one interception. He spread the ball around pretty well, with receiving TDs for wide receiver Mike Evans, tight end Cameron Brate and two for WR Chris Godwin. This offensive explosion was aided in the run game with TDs from both Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones.
Rams QB Jared Goff was picked off three times. The Bucs defense took huge steps forward, under the stellar play of LB Shaquil Barrett who notched his 9th sack of the season. He also caused a fumble that Ndamukong Suh picked up and took into the end zone for the score.
This game just felt like theirs from the very first snap. Looking ahead to their next few games, they are definitely poised to take over this division. They’ll face some tough divisional games, however, as they see New Orleans and Carolina before their bye in week 7.
Week 5 Division Matchup: Buccaneers travel to The Big Easy to face the Saints on Sunday, October 6th, at 1:00 pm EST
— NFL (@NFL) September 29, 2019
It’s the Kyle Allen era in Carolina… or at least it is until Cam Newton returns. He wasn’t awful on Sunday, went 24/34 for 232 yards with zero interceptions but also no touchdowns. RB Christian McCaffrey looked good with his 93 yards and the Panthers lone TD, but teams are soon going to figure out how to stop him and force Allen to beat them in the air.
The biggest Fantasy Football surprise of the week came in this game from Texans WR Deandre Hopkins. The gadget play/wildcat attempt had Hopkins throwing a pass which was easily intercepted. So we all learned that yes, you can lose points if your fantasy wide receiver throws an interception!
Week 5: Panthers host the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) on Sunday, October 6th, at 1:00 pm EST
DeAndre Hopkins throws his 1st career INT ?pic.twitter.com/gkqWXfKYLK
— NFL Stats (@NFL_Stats) September 29, 2019
The Falcons have always been one of my favorite “side teams.” This season they have been nothing short of disappointing. How does QB Matt Ryan go 35/53 for 397 yards and not get a single touchdown? TE Alex Hooper had a stunning 130 receiving yards, but no touchdowns. The only scoring by either team in the second half was a 3rd quarter field goal by Falcons kicking legend Matt Bryant.
There isn’t even any reason to talk about the Falcon’s defense until they figure out how to score some points. With efforts getting them 12, 24, 24 and then 10 points so far this season, their biggest hurdle to overcome right now is getting into the end zone.
It’s early so they have time to figure it out, but not much because their schedule is heading into a brutal stretch: at Houston, at Arizona, hosting Rams, hosting Seahawks and then the bye week. After the bye, they have five straight weeks of division games. Yowza!
Week 5: Falcons travel to Houston Texans (2-2) on Sunday, October 6th, at 1:00 pm EST
— NFL (@NFL) September 30, 2019
Talk NFC South with Kate on Twitter // @ClvlndK8