Let’s take a trip around the division with the columnists from each city:
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Martin Fennelly writes that the Bucs aren’t showing any progress. If anything, they’ve regressed. It’s puzzling. This was a team that appeared to be on the rise at midseason. Now, the present is bleak and the future doesn’t look much better.
Gary Shelton writes that this year’s Bucs might be more disappointing than last year’s team. He has a point. This team had a high-priced group of free agents and a promising draft class. This year’s team also teased everyone with a 6-4 start. But, just like last year, the Bucs have gotten worse as the season has gone on.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Jeff Duncan writes that a play by tight end Jimmy Graham epitomized Sunday’s victory in Dallas. Graham chased down a fumble by Marques Colston and that allowed the Saints to kick the game-winning field goal in overtime. I’ll take it one step further and say Graham’s play epitomized the play of the team this season. It would have been easy for the Saints to feel sorry for themselves and give up. They never did and that’s why they still have a shot at a .500 season.
Bradley Handwerger writes that the Saints are building a foundation for the future. Fighting until the end definitely sets a positive tone for next year. But the Saints also have been giving some younger players some playing time. That’s very important. The Saints face some major salary-cap decisions on some of their veterans and they need to find out what they have in their younger players.
Tom Sorensen writes about how Sunday’s game between the Panthers and Raiders was filled with penalties. There were flags all over the place and that helped make this game ugly. But, when you’re the Panthers and you run your winning streak to three games, there’s nothing worth complaining about.
Owner Arthur Blank told Jeff Schultz the Falcons have done everything they can in the regular season. He’s right. Sunday’s regular-season finale against Tampa Bay means absolutely nothing. The next step for the Falcons is the playoffs. That’s where they truly have to take the next step and show they can win in the postseason.