|The Georgia Dome: The NFC’s second biggest opponent besides the Atlanta Falcons (from google.com)
The best football in the NFC proves to be played by the top three teams in the South division. The Atlanta Falcons (12-3), the New Orleans Saints (11-4), and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-6) have the division champion being decided in Week 17, the final week of the season. The NFC Stout (as I have seen and heard from numerous fan message boards, countless discussions amongst my friends and I) gave fans a defensive juggernaut on a national television stage for the final Monday Night Football airing of the season.
Week 17 proves to be no different. Despite that the division contains the NFLs worst football team, the Carolina Panthers at 2-13, the top two teams have been the cream of the crop in the NFC, and Atlanta has been one of the best teams in all of football, with it’s second best record, and losses only to Pittsburgh in overtime, The Eagles in Philadelphia, and their only home loss to the Saints on Monday Night. Tough losses to good opponents make a battle-tested Falcons teams thirsty for home-field throughout the playoffs, where they plan on defending the Georgia Dome.
| Brees has not been his usual dynamic self this year.
The New Orleans Saints also have a slight edge in gaining home-field advantage throughout the playoffs if the Falcons lose at Carolina, which proves unlikely. The Saints, who are 5-2 in the Superdome this season, the two losses being Cleveland and Atlanta, and have had upset losses against the Cleveland Browns and the Arizona Cardinals. But from the middle of the season, both the Falcons and the Saints have been playing the same level of stellar football. While Drew Brees isn’t having the same stellar stats as a season before, including throwing more interceptions (2009 STATS: 34TDs 11INTS, 2010: 32 TDs, 21INTs) and at costly times, and injuries to Reggie Bush and other role players have hindered the Saints and kept them in second place while the Atlanta Falcons tries to prove that they are for real in the NFC and want to bring a championship to Atlanta. The Saints still trying to prove that they are more than just a team of destiny, stemming from their run all the way to Super Bowl Champions from last season.
The Falcons try and prove they haven’t lost their confidence from losing to the Saints in Atlanta on December 27th, 17-14. They want to win Sunday and be able to clinch the NFC South for the first time since 2004. They want to NFC Championship to come through Atlanta. Both the Falcons and Saints play their final games at home, and the Falcons don’t care what the record of their opponent, a win and the Dome will be a formidable 12th man to any of the possible opponents that the NFC will bring.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers can clinch a playoff spot, which they want, if they can do something they haven’t done this season: beat a team with a winning record. They are 9-1 against teams with losing records, but have been abysmal against teams with winning records, and a win against New Orleans, who they lost to 31-6 on October 17th in Tampa. Josh Freeman, who threw for a franchise record 5 touchdowns last week against the Seattle Seahawks, is looking to lead a promising team, and the youngest in the NFL, to a win and a playoff appearance.
Week 17 for the NFC South is looking to be very pivotal and fun to watch indeed.
Week 17 Match-Ups for the NFC South
Carolina @ Atlanta 1PM
Tampa Bay @ New Orleans
ATL wins the DIVISION if: Win against Carolina or a New Orleans LOSS
NO wins the DIVISION if: ATL LOSS and NO WIN
TAMPA Clinches playoff spot if: Green Bay defeats Chicago, Redskins defeats NY Giants
If ATL LOSES AND NO WINS: ATL WILL BE A 5 SEED, NO WILL BE ONE SEED
if ATL WINS: ATL WILL BE ONE SEED OF NFC
Information and statistics used in this article are from espn.com and nfl.com. Images from google.com