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Around the NFC South: Buccaneers begin with a bang

Posted Sep 19, 2017

Tampa serves notice in its overdue opener, beating up the Bears a week after Chicago pushed a Falcons team that returned to Super Bowl form in Week 2.

When launching this series last week, I noted the potential strength of the NFC South this season. Sure it's only two weeks in, but three of the four remaining unbeaten teams in the NFC reside in the division. With the Falcons visiting the other 2-0 team in the conference – the Lions - this week, the NFC South easily could have the lone unbeatens this time next week.

BUCCANEERS: Tampa Bay had to wait an extra week to debut because of Hurricane Irma, and it was worth the wait for Buccaneers fans. Tampa tore out to a 26-0 halftime lead over a Bears team that pushed Atlanta last week before cruising to a 29-7 triumph. The offense was efficient with former Falcon running back Jacquizz Rodgers filling in for Doug Martin, who continued serving a league suspension that will sideline him until Week 5. The defense got an interception return for a touchdown from former Panthers cornerback Robert McClain.

Tampa won two games in 2014, six in 2015 and nine in 2016. It's just one game, but the Buccaneers have the look of a team that could continue that trend right into the playoffs.

FALCONS: After a shaky Week 1 victory at the Bears, Atlanta looked a lot like the team that reached the Super Bowl last season. At opening night for their new stadium, the Falcons dominated the majority of their NFC Championship rematch against the Packers. The offense clicked and the defense made timely, game-changing plays.

Atlanta's defensive line was able to take advantage of Green Bay being without both its starting offensive tackles but could be slowed by a hamstring injury suffered by Vic Beasley, who led the NFL in sacks last season but could miss a month.

SAINTS: With the rest of the division still undefeated, the winless Saints face about as much of a must-win situation as Week 3 can be when they visit the Panthers on Sunday. It's the first intradivision matchup of the season across the board.

After a tough opener in Minnesota, New Orleans faced the unenviable task of hosting the reigning Super Bowl champion Patriots coming off a loss in the season opener and three extra days of rest/anger. The Patriots put up 20 points in the first quarter of a 36-20 victory that left New Orleans last in the league in yards allowed per game (512.5) and next-to-last in points allowed per game (32.5).

The Saints still have plenty of firepower on offense that will push the Panthers' so-far-potent defense, but they haven't been cashing in so far. They rank third in the league with 386.5 yards per game, but that has only translated to 19.5 points per game, which ranks 17th.