Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
To date, it's the game of the year in the NFC South. Although there's a long season ahead, that statement still might be true at the end of the year.
Carolina has a chance to create some pretty good distance from the pack, with a victory and some help from Chicago. But the Bucs have a chance to climb into very good position as they get their original "starting'' quarterback back. That's Jeff Garcia.
People have been talking a lot about Tampa Bay's inability to play with any consistency on offense. Maybe that can change as the Bucs switch back to the guy who was supposed to be running the offense in the first place.
After Monday night's train wreck (the loss to Minnesota), the Saints face a must-win situation. The good news is they've got the Raiders coming to town. But New Orleans no longer can take anything for granted.
A victory won't cure all New Orleans' problems, but it sure would help keep the season alive. With games in Charlotte and London coming up before the bye week, the Saints won't be inside the Superdome again until late November.
If they lose this game, November probably won't matter.
All of the sudden, Atlanta fans are asking why the Falcons don't get any respect. The reality is the Falcons gained plenty of that when they went into Lambeau Field and won last week.
Sure, there's still room for skepticism. Remember, after what the Falcons went through last year, this is a process. Beating a good team at home would be the next logical step in that process.
It also would give the Falcons the same amount of wins they had all of last year and go a long way toward erasing the memories of a nightmare season.