Atlanta’s defense. It really did have a new and much improved look early in the season. But the 31 points allowed in Philadelphia were not a good sign. You have to wonder if it’s the start of a downward spiral. After all, the Falcons probably will be without the two players they brought in to give the defense a new look on Sunday against Cincinnati. They already have said rookie linebacker Sean Weatherspoon will sit out with a knee injury and it appears likely cornerback Dunta Robinson could miss some time because of a concussion.
Cadillac Williams, running back, Buccaneers. This guy is a fan favorite because he’s shown such courage in coming back from two major knee injuries. That also has made him a favorite of the coaches. But you don’t stay as anybody’s favorite when you’re averaging just 2.5 yards a carry and haven’t scored a touchdown. Sure, you can put some of the blame on the offensive line, but Williams hasn’t hit holes when they’ve been there. The Bucs don’t have many other options, but it looks like they’re going to take looks at two guys they picked up off the street at the start of the season -- LeGarrette Blount and Kregg Lumpkin.
Sam Baker, left tackle, Falcons. He’s supposed to be the franchise left tackle and that means he’s supposed to protect the blind side of franchise quarterback Matt Ryan. Well, it’s not working quite like it was planned. Ryan got sacked three times against Philadelphia and the number would have been a lot higher if he didn’t do such a good job of throwing the ball away when he sensed pressure. It seemed like Ryan ended up on the ground just about every time he dropped back to pass. It’s hard to change left tackles midseason and the Falcons don’t have any real options. But it’s starting to look like left tackle is going to be high on their list of needs for the 2011 draft.
Chris Ivory, running back, Saints. If you count up all the backfield injuries the Saints have had dating back to the preseason, Ivory would be the fifth- or sixth-string running back. But the undrafted rookie played like a first-team feature back Sunday as he ran for 158 yards against Tampa Bay. That’s going to earn him some more playing time and he’s secured a spot in the rotation even after Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush return from injuries.
Matt Moore, quarterback, Carolina. He’s been named the starter again after losing his job to rookie Jimmy Clausen. With the 49ers coming to town, the Panthers actually have a chance and they need to give Moore a chance. They need to approach this game the way they should have approached the start of the season. They need to rely on their defense and their running game and let Moore be a game manager. He’s capable of doing that. The Panthers, for reasons I can’t understand, asked Moore to go out and win the first couple of games with his arm and that was way too much to ask. Give this guy some support and he just might be adequate.
New Orleans’ defense. The Saints struggled through their first five games, but showed some promise against Tampa Bay. Yeah, make the obligatory joke about Tampa Bay’s offense, but the fact is, it’s not bad. At least the Bucs have a legitimate passing game. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has faced some challenges because of injuries this season, but it looks like he’s getting his group together and there might be more help on the way in the coming weeks. Safety Darren Sharper and linebacker Clint Ingram are scheduled to return to practice after spending the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list with injuries.