Let's take a run through the top headlines from around the division:
The Falcons lost on Sunday, so it’s time for another round of “Bash The Falcons." A lot of people have said the Falcons aren’t as good as their record indicates. The latest is NBC analyst Rodney Harrison, who said no one is afraid of the Falcons. For the moment, he’s right. The only way this kind of talk is going to stop is if the Falcons go out and win a playoff game, or at least have a convincing victory against the New York Giants on Sunday.
Punter Matt Bosher has been named the Falcons’ Man of the Year for his off-field activities. This makes him one of 32 candidates for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award.
Rod Maaddi writes that Ron Rivera could save his job by winning the remaining three games. I’m not sure Rivera needs to win all three. Sunday’s victory against Atlanta and maybe one or two more wins could be enough to keep Rivera employed. I think owner Jerry Richardson just wants to see some positive signs out of this team the rest of the way.
Rivera yanked rookie cornerback Josh Norman from the starting lineup, saying he wanted to see what some other players could do. I think the Panthers made a mistake by making Norman a starter long before he was ready. A little time as a backup might get him on the right path.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue is expected to announce his ruling on the appeals of the suspensions in the bounty saga on Tuesday. As soon as an announcement is made, I’ll bring you analysis of what it means.
Interim coach Joe Vitt said the Saints are in territory they haven’t been in since the arrival of much of the coaching staff and quarterback Drew Brees in 2006. Even in 2007 and ’08, the Saints were at least in playoff contention in the final weeks. I wouldn’t count on wholesale lineup changes, but you probably will see some younger guys getting increase playing time.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Right tackle Demar Dotson said he has to clean up his technique after being called for holding twice on Sunday. He’s not the only one. The Bucs were called for 11 penalties. That’s way too many for a team that prides itself on being disciplined.