Final Word: NFC South

Five nuggets of knowledge about the Week 16 games:

It’s how you start: Starting fast, like they did with an interception and a quick touchdown last week against the Giants, has become a trademark of the Atlanta Falcons. Since coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan arrived in 2008, the Falcons have scored more points (224) on their opening drive than any other team in the league.

Nickel and dime: Look for the Falcons to keep extra defensive backs on the field for almost the entire game with Detroit. The Lions have called for a designed pass on 67.2 percent of their offensive plays, most in the NFL. Reserve defensive backs Robert McClain, Christopher Owens and Dominique Franks all could see increased playing time.

Padding the résumé: New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees probably already has done enough to make himself a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But he can add another impressive line to his bio against the Dallas Cowboys. Brees needs 165 passing yards to reach 4,500 for the season. If he gets there, Brees will become the first player in NFL history with three consecutive seasons of at least 4,500 passing yards.

On a roll: Carolina quarterback Cam Newton has been hot in recent weeks. In the past four games, Newton has been responsible for 12 touchdowns (passing and rushing). That’s the highest total of any player in the same span. Newton also has accounted for 1,309 yards of offense in those four games, the third-highest total in the league.

Closing in on history: The Bucs are leading the league by allowing an average of 310.6 passing yards per game. That puts them on pace to finish the season with 4,970 passing yards allowed. That would shatter the NFL record (4,796 yards, set by Green Bay last season).