Time for a Wednesday morning run through the top headlines from around the NFC South:
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, who has been on the physically unable to perform list, could begin practicing as early as Wednesday. As Stephen Holder notes, look for the Bucs to bring Bowers along slowly. Michael Bennett has been playing well and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim has shown promise since taking over for an injured Adrian Clayborn. The best tact might be for the Bucs to use Bowers as a situational pass-rusher early in his return.
Martin Fennelly takes a look at the receiver tandem of Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. The two look like they’re starting to click. If that continues, this could be the best tandem in franchise history, partly because the Bucs haven’t had many strong receiver pairings throughout their existence.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
New Orleans (and Tampa and Atlanta) are not in the running for Super Bowl L (the 50th Super Bowl). The NFL said Tuesday that San Francisco and South Florida are the finalists for the game. I’d look for New Orleans and Tampa to get involved in the bidding for the 2017 game. And, if Atlanta gets its new stadium in 2017, it could be a candidate to host the Super Bowl as early as 2018.
With Jonathan Vilma, who has been on the physically unable to perform list, expected to begin practicing, his health isn’t the only issue. The Saints have been getting quality play out of middle linebacker Curtis Lofton and I don’t see him moving. If Vilma is healthy enough to be more than a backup, he could be moved to the outside.
The Cowboys will be without DeMarco Murray on Sunday due to injury. But a Dallas running game that produced 227 yards against Baltimore remains very dangerous. It’s especially dangerous against a Carolina rushing defense that’s allowing 127.4 yards per game.
Although he’s out for the season and the Panthers are 1-4, center Ryan Kalil said he has no regrets about taking out a full-page newspaper ad, promising a Super Bowl win, in the preseason. Kalil shouldn’t have any regrets. At the time, he believed the Panthers were capable of something like that and he wanted to excite a fan base that hasn’t had much to be excited about in recent years.
Daniel Cox points out that since coach Mike Smith took over in 2008, the Falcons have the NFL’s third-best home record with 29 wins. I used to question how much of a role the Georgia Dome played in the Falcons’ success at home. In recent years, it’s been filled with decent audiences, but those crowds never seemed to have much impact on the game. I’m sensing that’s changing this year. When I’ve been to the Georgia Dome this year, the crowds have seemed more festive before the game and much louder during it.
Smith said a decision will be made soon on when defensive tackle Corey Peters, who has been on the physically unable to perform list, will begin practicing. I’d look for that to happen next week, when the Falcons resume practicing after their bye.