Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
The Falcons can't do it two weeks in a row, can they?
You might be surprised. Although Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia is getting most of the heat (and a seat) after last week's loss in New Orleans, the biggest culprit might have been the Bucs' defense. Units led by Monte Kiffin aren't supposed to look like the Bucs from the Sam Wyche days.
But that's what happened in the Superdome. The Bucs gave up three huge plays and never really were able to dictate the game the way they have in the past. Maybe Tampa Bay's defense is too young at the same time it's too old and there's not enough in between.
We'll find out if last week was just a fluke for Tampa Bay's defense or a real problem because Atlanta did a pretty good job tearing apart Detroit's defense last week. For those who don't make the connection, Detroit is coached by Rod Marinelli, who spent years at Kiffin's side and subscribes to all of his theories.
Rookie quarterback Matt Ryan looked very poised against Marinelli's defense and running back Michael Turner was spectacular. If linebacker Derrick Brooks sits out with a hamstring injury, Kiffin is going to have to rally the defense or else it will get embarrassed for the second straight week.
A week ago, this looked like a pretty dull matchup of two winless teams. But, suddenly, it's a game between two teams that could be NFC powers. That's because the Panthers and Bears knocked off most of the AFC's elite. Carolina went out to San Diego without Steve Smith and beat the Chargers. The Bears rediscovered their defense and made Peyton Manning and the Colts look ordinary.
Something's going to have to give in this game, but not much. John Fox and Lovie Smith are all about defense and they seem to have their teams back to doing what they do best. Both teams showed surprisingly strong running games last week.
Whichever team walks out of Bank of America Stadium with a win is going to be the new darling of the NFC.
But don't feel too bad for the Saints. Even though Colston is their best receiver, by far, they've got plenty of options. Devery Henderson and David Patten are decent and second-year pro Robert Meachem finally may get a chance to show if he can play in this league.
The situation in the defensive backfield is pretty similar if Gay and Harper can't go. New Orleans actually has some depth in the secondary this year and Aaron Glenn and Josh Bullocks wouldn't be bad as short-term fill-ins.