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Around the NFC South: Atlanta alone at top

Posted Sep 26, 2017

Falcons stand as lone unbeaten in the division - and the NFC - after Panthers fall in division opener to previously winless Saints and Buccaneers are vanquished by Vikings.

And then there was one.

Three NFC South teams entered Week 3 undefeated, but only one emerged the same. The Falcons, in fact, are the lone unbeaten in the entirety of the NFC – but barely. The division is now without a winless team after the Saints sunk the Panthers.

FALCONS: The NFC was guaranteed to end the week with an unbeaten because Atlanta visited Detroit with both teams at 2-0. Courtesy of a dramatic 30-26 victory, the Falcons are the first team since the 2006 Seahawks to start a season 3-0 after losing the Super Bowl the previous season.

Atlanta looked really good for the second consecutive week, particularly its running game headed by Devonta Freeman. Matt Ryan's streak of 309 passes without an interception crashed and burned with three picks in 15 passes – the last two off deflections – that helped keep the Lions close. It couldn't have possibly been closer at the end, when Golden Tate was initially ruled to have scored the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds only to have it reversed by replay review.

Up next, the Falcons host a Bills team that pushed the Panthers in Week 2 and pushed around the previously unbeaten Broncos in Week 3.

BUCCANEERS: After looking great in their opener Week 2, Tampa Bay looked just the opposite while visiting a Vikings team that has played well to date but had backup Case Keenum under center. He certainly settled in for his second game in place of Sam Bradford, torching Tampa and helping the Vikings built a 28-3 edge early in the third quarter on their way to a 34-17 triumph.

The Buccaneers' defense was beat up before the game, and it only got worse during and after. A key starter on each level didn't play (including cornerback Brent Grimes), then defensive tackle Gerald McCoy exited the game and now linebacker Lavonte David could miss some games (ankle injuries in both cases).

The 1-1 Buccaneers will next host the Giants, one of just two winless teams remaining in the NFC but a team that finally hit its stride offensively with 24 fourth-quarter points in a last-second loss to the Eagles.

SAINTS: Panthers fans know all about how New Orleans got off the snide at the expense of Carolina. Former Panthers wide receiver Ted Ginn turned it into a borderline blowout with a 40-yard touchdown grab early in the second half of the Saints' 34-13 victory, his first TD reception for a team other than Carolina since 2010 (he played for other teams in '11, '12 and '14).

The Saints are perennial league leaders on offense but moved out of their almost-as-common spot in the cellar defensively by keeping a spotty-so-far Panthers offense mostly out of the end zone. New Orleans remains in last place in the NFC South at 1-2 but claim the lone division win to date and could climb up with a victory at the Dolphins. Prior to Sunday's victory in Charlotte, the Saints had lost six of their previous nine road games.

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