New Orleans Saints (8-0, 1st)
Last week: Def. Carolina 30-20 at home
We thought: Carolina usually plays them tough, and on a short week, the Saints would struggle.
They are: Nearing the point of needing a loss. It won't come this week in St. Louis, but a loss prior to a Monday Nighter against New England wouldn't be the worst thing. Still the favorite for home-field.
Atlanta Falcons (5-3, 2nd)
Last week: Def. Washington 31-17 at home
We thought: Anyone else think that we may have anointed Matty Ice a bit too soon? He'll probably be a good pro someday, but he's not there right now.
They are: Vulnerable. Sloppy second half against the 'Skins got a little scary there. If Carolina shuts down Michael Turner this week, can we declare the Curse of 370 back in play again after a two-week vacation?
Carolina Panthers (3-5, 3rd)
Last week: Lost to New Orleans 30-20 on the road
We thought: Lose to Buffalo at home, smoke Arizona on the road...basically a microcosm of a difficult-to-figure-out league.
They are: A tough out. Playoffs are nearly impossible with 5 losses already (although a division win vs Atlanta makes things somewhat interesting), but they won't quit. Rough schedule against teams that stop the run coming up, which could mean they need Jake Delhomme to throw more. At the very least, that'll be entertaining.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-7, 4th)
Last week: Def. Green Bay 38-28 at home
We thought: Brilliant move to go with the throwbacks, combined with starting the 1st round draft pick QB. Probably the only way to get the fans excited.
They are: Still stink, despite the win. And the majority of their remaining games are on the road, plus 2 with the Saints. At least Tampa fans don't need to switch over to the Lightning just yet.