Thursday Night Football reaction: The NFC South is between Tom Brady and Drew Brees
The Atlanta Falcons hung on to beat the Carolina Panthers 25-17 on Thursday Night Football. Atlanta missed an extra point in the fourth quarter that would have given it a nine-point lead (enough to ice the game before the last drive), but the visitors got it done when Teddy Bridgewater threw an interception after Carolina had crossed midfield with a minute left.
The Falcons are a better team than their 2-6 record would indicate, but in a division with New Orleans and Tampa Bay their playoff chances still look to be bleak, especially considering they share a conference with the NFC West. As far as Carolina is concerned, this was a must-win game: the Panthers are now 3-5 and facing the Chiefs and Buccaneers in their next two.
It’s Bucs vs. Saints for the division
Before the season started, the story of the NFC South was the division race between Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Atlanta and Carolina certainly had their opportunities in the first half of the season to insert themselves into the conversation, but it appears as though that window has closed by now. The South looks to be between Brady’s Buccaneers and Brees’s Saints, much as the oddsmakers predicted before the season.
Tonight’s result makes next week’s matchup between Tampa Bay and New Orleans even more crucial. They’re just a half-game apart, and both should add to their win total in Week 8 as they play the Giants and Bears, respectively. The Saints won their first meeting in Week 1 but the Bucs have been more dominant since. No matter what, after tonight it’s clear that we’ll have a quarterback over 40 leading his team to a division title in the South.
Deja vu for the Falcons
For the Falcons, the story of their season looks to be the same as it was last year: too little, too late. At their best, they can play with any team in the league (they aren’t that different from the one that should have won the Super Bowl four years ago). In 2019, they started 1-7 and won six of their last eight to finish 7-9, planning to bring some momentum into 2020.
Matty Ice says "Ill do it myself!"
Matt Ryan's legs convert his any time scorer prop at +800 🤑
— Pickswise (@Pickswise) October 30, 2020
Things didn’t go as planned, though, and the leash on head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff was short — both were fired after the team lost its first five games. The Falcons are now 2-6, but they’ll need to repeat their second-half performance from last year just to finish .500 — which probably won’t make the top seven in the NFC.