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Erik Sabol
FN Contributor

Writer. Editor. Tortured fan.


Game Balls
Helmet Stickers


Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons head across country to face the San Diego Chargers in a battle of unbeatens, but come into the game with one potentially fatal offensive flaw. The Bucs and Saints look to rebound after tough losses.

The New York Giants stormed into Carolina Thursday night and crushed the overmatched Panthers and star QB Cam Newton, 36-7. Eli Manning sparkled (again). Teams with the better passing efficiency are now 31-2 in the young 2012 season.

Atlanta's 27-21 victory over the Denver Broncos Monday night signifies a changing of the guard in the NFC South behind QB Matt Ryan, who leads the NFL in Real QB Rating. The Falcons displayed the power of versatility, while embarrassing Peyton Manning.

The reign appears over for New Orleans while Superman still lives in Charlotte, after Carolina rebounded from its Week 1 loss to hang 35 on the 0-2 Saints. Tampa, meanwhile, had the champs on the ropes and let them slip away.

Atlanta and Tampa look to build on promising opening-day victories, while the Panthers and Saints claw their way out of the divisional basement.

We're only one week into 2012, and the season's already taking an odd turn in the unpredictable NFC South.

The NFL's opening week doesn't mean much in the grand scheme, but an early loss has a way of haunting teams in the twilight of the season.

Toss the trends and abandon common sense -- last season doesn't matter. The NFC South is ALWAYS a four-horse race, says Mouth of the NFC South Erik Sabol.

Tampa Bay flatlined badly halfway through 2011. ut a bit of TLC (and T&A) from CHFF's Russian mail-order Naughty Nurse has them scheduled for recovery in 2012. Paging Dr. Schiano. Dr. Greg Schiano.

CHFF's Russian mail-order Naughty Nurse checks the statistical vital signs of the New Orleans Saints and finds a hormonally imbalanced NFC juggernaut whose locker room transgressions may have cost them another division crown in 2012.

CHFF's Russian mail-order Naughty Nurse checks the statistical vital signs of each NFL team. She checks up on the Carolina Panthers: promising, explosive, exciting, but ultimately incomplete.

They saved the worst for last, if you can believe it. The Buccaneers lost 45-24, punctuating a dismal year with their worst performance of 2011.

The Buccaneers close out their disappointing 2011 in Atlanta, against a Falcons team with playoff seeding on the line. Atlanta couldn't have drawn a better match up; the Buccaneers haven't shown up to play in weeks.

We didn't think it could get much worse than the 19-point beatdown the Panthers delivered earlier in the season. We were wrong. The Buccaneers have been hanged, drawn, and quartered by Carolina. Erik Sabol has 5 observations to share.

The Buccaneers head north to battle Cam Newton and the Panthers. Three weeks ago, Carolina laid the smackdown in Raymond James Stadium, and the struggling Bucs look to avenge the loss.

The Buccaneers fall to the Cowboys 31-15. It's their fifth two-touchdown loss in six weeks, and likely the last prime time game Tampa will see until 2013.

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