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Final Word: NFC South

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Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 10:

Looking ahead. You never want to overlook an opponent in the NFL. But, come on, the Saints play the Rams this week and the Bucs next week. If Sean Payton is half as smart as I think he is, he’s already working on a game plan for New England in a couple of weeks. And he’s also resting any key player who has anything close to an injury.

All youth, all the time. Now that the Bucs are going with Josh Freeman at quarterback, they should jump fully into their youth movement. It’s time to figure out who they want back next season and get experience for guys like Sammie Stroughter and Roy Miller. Forget guys like Antonio Bryant, Michael Clayton and Chris Hovan. It’s already obvious they won’t be back next year.

Somebody’s got to win. The Panthers are playing a must-win game Sunday and so are the Falcons. Problem is, they’re playing each other. The Falcons need this one to have a shot at a wild-card berth because their remaining schedule is brutal. The Panthers need to win this one, or else their season is over.

Ready for takeoff? Still waiting for that breakout game by Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith. You know he’s got to explode at some time and the Falcons have plenty of questions in the secondary. This might be the week Smith puts up huge numbers. Then again, Jake Delhomme is still the quarterback.

Not ready for takeoff. In a very interesting move, the Falcons are going to bus to Charlotte. That’s right, NFL players are going to be asked to ride three hours on a bus. Coach Mike Smith has a point in that the team can get to Charlotte faster via bus than by traveling from team headquarters in Flowery Branch to the Atlanta airport, loading up all the equipment and making the flight. But it’s going to be interesting to see how the players react to this one.