Around the NFC South

Time for a look at the top headlines from around the NFC South.

Although rookie Mark Ingram had 17 carries Sunday and Pierre Thomas had just six, coach Sean Payton said there’s no set formula for dividing the carries between the running backs. Payton said the way the game unfolds determines that. Against Jacksonville, the Saints faced a lot of short-yardage situations and the Saints use Ingram more in the short-yardage game.

Carolina receiver Steve Smith appears happier than he has seemed in recent years, according to Jordan Gross, who has played with Smith in college and with the Panthers. Smith has reason to be happy. With Cam Newton, he has a quarterback who can get him the ball and Smith is putting up the kind of numbers he did earlier in his career.

Broadcaster Rodney Harrison, a former player, picks the Packers to beat the Falcons on Sunday night. Can’t really argue with his logic based on last season’s playoff game and the way the Falcons have started this season. But I’ve got a hunch we might see Atlanta start to put things together this week.

Before the playoff loss to the Packers, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan won his two head-to-head meetings with Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. Ryan said he used the playoff loss as motivation throughout the offseason.

The Panthers continue to tweak their roster. They signed defensive end Antwan Applewhite and claimed safety Jermale Hines off waivers from the Colts. Applewhite played for San Diego when Carolina coach Ron Rivera was with the Chargers.

Tampa Bay’s coaching staff was happy with the play of Corey Lynch and Larry Asante, who shared playing time at safety after the Bucs lost Cody Grimm to injury for the rest of the season.

Tampa Bay’s investments in the front four during the last two drafts seem to be paying off. The Bucs have allowed only 92 rushing yards in the last two games. The Bucs already have 10 sacks after recording 10 all of last season.