Final Word: NFC South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 8 (remember, the Buccaneers and Falcons are on bye):

The Chris Weinke Bowl. Carolina’s Cam Newton and Minnesota’s Christian Ponder will meet in a matchup of rookie quarterbacks, but they have more in common than that. During the lockout, Newton and Ponder worked under the tutelage of Weinke at IMG Academy in Florida. Weinke, who played for Carolina and grew up in Minnesota, obviously was doing something right. Newton’s off to a great start, and Ponder has shown some positives since taking over the starting job. By the way, Newton will become the first rookie quarterback since 1967 to face two other first-round quarterbacks from the same draft class. He already faced Jacksonville’s Blaine Gabbert.

History in the making. Speaking of Weinke, Newton already has passed him and Tim Tebow on the list for most rushing touchdowns by a rookie quarterback since the AFL-NFL merger. Weinke and Tebow each ran for six touchdowns as rookies. Newton already has seven and is tied for No. 1 with Vince Young. I’m thinking Young’s moving to No. 2 very soon.

Going wide. As we noted Thursday, the New Orleans Saints are making great use of running back Darren Sproles. They’re lining Sproles up as a wide receiver quite frequently. When lined up as a receiver, Sproles has been targeted on 33 pass attempts. Matt Forte and C.J. Spiller are tied for second on the list of running backs lining up at receiver. Forte and Spiller each have been targeted nine times in those situations. When lined up at receiver, Sproles has 24 catches for 182 yards.

Chasing Brett Favre. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is closing in on another significant milestone. Brees has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 34 consecutive games. That puts him at No. 3 in history. But Brees is getting close to Favre, who is No. 2 at 36 games. The record is 47, set by Johnny Unitas over the course of five seasons.

Running at the Rams. The Saints are thought of as a pass-first offense. But don’t be surprised if they change things up a bit this week. The Rams have one of the worst run defenses in recent history. St. Louis allowed 293 rushing yards to Dallas in Week 7. The Rams already have allowed 1,103 rushing yards this season. Since 2000, only two defenses have allowed more rushing yards in their first six games.