NFC South first-quarter grades

We’re a quarter of the way through the season, so it’s time for progress reports on the four NFC South teams.

Remember, these aren’t final grades because each NFC South team has 12 games remaining and a lot can change. But let’s see how the four division teams are progressing so far.

Atlanta Falcons: They’re undefeated and a lot of people think they’re one of the best teams in the NFL. They might be. Quarterback Matt Ryan is playing like an MVP candidate, and the defense has shown it’s better than it was the past four years. The scary thing is the Falcons still haven’t put together a complete game. If they do that in December and January, they could go a long way. First-quarter grade: A.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Let’s remember that I’m grading on a curve here. I wasn’t expecting a lot from the Bucs at the start of the season, and I don’t think many people were. They are 1-3, but I’m not going to be too harsh on them. The Bucs have done some good things in their losses. There is no question there are signs of hope out of this team. It’s up to new coach Greg Schiano to ride all those good signs, fix the problems, and this team could have a bright future. First-quarter grade: C.

Carolina Panthers: The expectations for the Panthers were high, and that’s why I’m going to be harsh on them. They’re also 1-3, but they have a different vibe than the Bucs. Carolina looks like a team that’s made no progress since last season. Although incredibly talented, the offense has been wildly inconsistent. Although all of last season’s injured guys are back and some new players were added, the defense doesn’t look any better than last season. First-quarter grade: D.

New Orleans Saints: I fully understand the Saints had perhaps the most difficult offseason in the history of pro sports, and they’re in uncharted territory with coach Sean Payton suspended for the entire season. But a team with Drew Brees as its quarterback and a lot of other veteran talent should not be 0-4. First-quarter grade: F.