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Around the NFC South: Falcons falter


With the recent resurgence of the Saints, the NFC South is now the lone division with all four teams standing at .500 or better. The teams' combined record of 10-5 tops the league as well.

FALCONS: Atlanta's early-season pattern of cutting it close finally came with a cost. After previous narrow escapes against the Bears and the Lions, the Falcons fell from the ranks of the unbeaten with a home loss to the Bills.

The Bills contained Atlanta's aerial attack, as Buffalo at last allowed its first touchdown pass of the entire season midway through the fourth quarter – but only after twice picking off Matt Ryan. Worth watching going forward is the health of starting receivers Julio Jones (hip) and Mohamed Sanu (hamstring), though the Falcons have their bye this week. That means the Panthers, now tied with Atlanta atop the division at 3-1, could take over first place Sunday.

BUCCANEERS: Tampa kept pace by keeping the Giants winless, albeit barely. The Buccaneers improved to 2-1 (their Week 1 game was postponed) with a field goal on the final play, continuing what has been an up-and-down season so far. After opening with an impressive victory over the Bears, Tampa struggled against the Vikings before bouncing back. It's a small sample size, but the Buccaneers have played well at home and struggled on the road. Next up, they host the Patriots on Thursday Night Football.

The Giants were able to exploit some of the defensive deficiencies currently testing Tampa because of widespread injuries, and a short week against Tom Brady isn't the best scenario for that. Safety T.J. Ward and linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander didn't suit up against New York.

SAINTS: New Orleans has righted the ship on defense since a historically poor start. After yielding 65 points to the Vikings and Patriots over the first two weeks, they've held the Panthers and Dolphins to 13 points over the next two weeks including Sunday's 20-0 shutout of Miami in London.

The Saints pitched their first shutout since 2012 and held the Dolphins to 186 yards, and they may have gained a touch of clarity in their crowded backfield – to the detriment of future Hall of Fame back Adrian Peterson. Mark Ingram did the heavy lifting, rookie Alvin Kamara did his best Darren Sproles impersonation, and Peterson played just six snaps. The Saints, like the Falcons, have a bye this week.

View the top photos from Panthers at Patriots by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez.

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