Final Word: NFC South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 9 (remember, the Carolina Panthers are on bye):

Classic trap game: The Atlanta Falcons are coming off their bye and they’ve got what seems like a very winnable game against the Indianapolis Colts. Assuming they win, the Falcons will play a very big game the following week, when they host the Saints. So it’s not all that difficult to imagine the Falcons looking beyond the Colts. They should be on a three-game winning streak by the time they play the Saints. But you can’t assume anything in this league. If I’m coach Mike Smith, I’m reminding the Falcons (repeatedly) about what happened to the Saints last week when they went up against the winless St. Louis Rams.

Stay in the pocket: When the Buccaneers defeated the Saints in Week 6 in Tampa, quarterback Josh Freeman had his best game of the season. That happened largely because Freeman got great protection. He was not sacked and was under duress only four times, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That allowed Freeman to stay in the pocket and he was particularly effective, averaging 7.6 yards per attempt and throwing for two touchdowns and no interceptions. While staying in the pocket in all his other games, Freeman has averaged 6.3 yards per attempt with five touchdowns, nine interceptions and seven sacks.

Every-down back? With Earnest Graham lost for the season, Tampa Bay running back LeGarrette Blount has said he’s ready to stay on the field for passing downs. That may happen some, but I’m not buying into the theory that the Bucs suddenly have decided they can trust Blount in pass protection on a regular basis. I’m thinking we’ll see a fair amount of Kregg Lumpkin as a third-down back and I wouldn't be surprised if the Bucs use a six-man offensive line at times with offensive tackle Demar Dotson checking in as an eligible receiver.

At home on the road: Since the arrival of Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan in 2008, much has been made about how successful the Falcons have been in the Georgia Dome. Well, going to Indianapolis shouldn’t provide too much of a scare. The Falcons also have been pretty good on the road recently. They’re 6-2 in their past eight road games. Since the start of the 2010 season, they’re 8-4 on the road. Only two teams in the NFL have better road records during that stretch.

Sticking with 'The Burner': Although rookie receiver Julio Jones is expected to return after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury, the Falcons would be wise to remember what they did offensively in winning those two games. They used Michael Turner and the running game as the focal point of the offense. Turner averaged 130.5 yards in those two games and he also can open lots of doors in the passing game. Since Turner’s 2008 arrival in Atlanta, the Falcons are 25-1 in games in which he has more than 21 rushing attempts.