Most everyone knows that the Saints remained on fire while the Falcons continued to cool off, but the Buccaneers are the Panthers’ next NFC South opponent. So we’ll start there.
BUCCANEERS: Tampa Bay is making a change at quarterback.
The Buccaneers are going back to Jameis Winston for this Sunday’s game against the 49ers, and it seems likely the leash will at least be long enough that Winston would start when the Panthers visit the Buccaneers a week later. Ryan Fitzpatrick was the starter to begin the season with Winston suspended, then Winston took over but was benched again because of turnover concerns.
Turnovers really are the name of the game here. Winston replaced Fitzpatrick in the third quarter of Sunday’s game at the Giants when Fitzpatrick threw his third interception of the day, and Winston nearly brought the Bucs back from a 17-point deficit before the bid ended with…an interception. Tampa leads the league in total offense but ranks just eighth in scoring average. That’s in large part because pretty amazingly, Fitzpatrick with 12 and Winston with 11 rank second and third in the NFL just behind Jets rookie Sam Darnold in interceptions.
SAINTS: Meanwhile, Drew Brees has thrown one interception…and 25 touchdowns. The future Hall of Famer tossed four touchdowns as the Saints tossed aside the Eagles 48-7 for New Orleans’ ninth consecutive victory. The Saints handed Philly the worst loss ever for a reigning Super Bowl champion while also becoming the first team in NFL history to top 40 points six times in a season. And there are six games still to go (including the Panthers twice in the final three weeks).
The Saints have tried to add a veteran receiver to flank Michael Thomas since Ted Ginn Jr. went on IR, first signing Dez Bryant and then signing Brandon Marshall after Bryant got hurt before playing a single snap. In the meantime, rookie Tre’Quan Smith has tried to make it a moot point. The player whose 62-yard touchdown reception in Week 5 made Brees the league’s career passing yardage king hauled in 10 passes for 157 yards against the Eagles. Next up for New Orleans is a Thanksgiving evening home date with Atlanta.
FALCONS: Atlanta seemed to have bounced back from a 1-4 start with three consecutive victories, but the Falcons have now fallen back into the danger zone at 4-6 following a 22-19 home loss to the Cowboys. After the teams combined for five field goals over the first three quarters, Dallas took command with back-to-back touchdown drives on either side of a rare Matt Ryan interception. Just his fourth interception of the year bounded off rookie receiver Calvin Ridley, who scored six touchdowns in his first four games but has just one since. Ryan hit Julio Jones to tie the score with 1:52 left, but a Dallas field goal on the final play won it.
Atlanta might need to win every game the rest of the way to return to the playoffs – starting with the Saints.