Final Word: NFC South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 8:

Passing the torch. Tampa Bay’s release Friday of starting guard Keydrick Vincent is yet another reminder of how serious the Buccaneers are about building with youth. With that in mind, keep a close eye on how the Bucs, who play Arizona on Sunday, handle their running back situation. I’m not saying Cadillac Williams is ready to be shipped off. He did catch the game-winning touchdown pass last week, and he probably will remain the starter. But the Bucs started giving undrafted rookie LeGarrette Blount carries last week and he responded nicely. That’s going to earn him more time on the field and more carries.

Torch already has passed. Speaking of changes at running back, the situation in New Orleans bears watching. Whenever Reggie Bush returns, he’ll be back in his old role as a jack-of-all-trades. But the guy sharing time with Bush probably is going to be Chris Ivory, another undrafted rookie. Ivory’s played well in recent weeks. There was a television report last week that the Saints weren’t happy with how running back Pierre Thomas, who was back on crutches Thursday, was handling his rehabilitation from an ankle injury. There’s no reason to doubt that report, and the powers in New Orleans appear to be thinking that Thomas, who doesn’t have a contract beyond this season, might be expendable. The Saints play host to the Steelers on Sunday night in a game that features the past two Super Bowl winners.

Coming straight at them. I generally don’t give fantasy football advice, but I’m going to make an exception here. If you have St. Louis running back Steven Jackson, start him. He’s going up against a Carolina run defense that allows 128 yards a game and has allowed a running back to rush for 100 yards in each of the past two games.

Rookie receivers rising. In light of Carolina’s win last week, I don’t want to pile on the Panthers. In fact, let’s look at something positive. They got very nice games from rookie receivers David Gettis and Brandon LaFell last week. Those guys are definitely catching on, which is nice. But let’s take it one step further. Back during training camp, Carolina officials hinted that it probably would be around midseason before we saw Armanti Edwards, another rookie receiver, get a chance to do much of anything. That’s turned out to be true as Edwards has played only sparingly and has been inactive more often than not. But we’re real close to that midseason point. The Panthers clearly are looking for answers for the future this season, so it might be time to get Edwards on the field.

Carolina on a roll? Since the Falcons are off, we’re going to give the Panthers a little extra space this week. I’m not saying they will win against St. Louis, but I think it’s at least possible that they can reach a two-game winning streak. As bad as things are in Carolina, nobody has quit. A lot of guys are playing for jobs or contracts for next season. More importantly, coach John Fox still has reason to be motivated. He’s auditioning for a new job. His resume is going to look a lot better if he can get about five wins this season.