Buccaneers counting on Arians to help QB Winston blossom
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tampa Bay is counting on Bruce Arians to help Jameis Winston realize his potential, however the young quarterback isn't the only component the two-time NFL Coach of the Year has to fix if the Buccaneers are going to end a long postseason drought.
A porous defense has been a problem for much of the team's decade-plus absence from the playoffs and needs immediate attention, too.
Buccaneers, Falcons not content with playing out string
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Dirk Koetter doesn't think it benefits him or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to wonder what might have been.
Win or lose Sunday's season finale against NFC South-rival Atlanta, the Bucs (5-10) will miss the playoffs for the 11th straight year.
The Falcons (6-9) have had a tough go of it, too, though they do have a shot at ending their disappointing season on a three-game winning streak.
Falcons-Buccaneers Preview Capsule
ATLANTA (6-9) at TAMPA BAY (5-10)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox
OPENING LINE - Buccaneers by 2
RECORD VS. SPREAD - Atlanta 5-10, Tampa Bay 6-7-2
SERIES RECORD - Falcons lead 26-24
LAST MEETING - Falcons beat Buccaneers 34-29, Oct. 14
LAST WEEK - Falcons beat Panthers 24-10; Buccaneers lost to Cowboys 27-20
AP PRO32 RANKING - Falcons No. 20, Buccaneers No. 23
FALCONS OFFENSE - OVERALL (8), RUSH (27), PASS (5).
FALCONS DEFENSE - OVERALL (26), RUSH (27), PASS (24).
McCaffrey, Kamara figure to play key roles on Monday night
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — There's been no such thing as a sophomore slump for Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara.
The two NFC South running backs have followed up strong rookie campaigns with even better second seasons for the Panthers and Saints, who'll meet Monday night in a game with big playoff ramifications for both teams.
Saints tackle Terron Armstead out for Panthers game
METAIRIE, La. (AP) — The New Orleans Saints have ruled out left tackle Terron Armstead for Monday night's game at Carolina because of a chest injury.
Armstead is the Saints' second-highest paid offensive player after Drew Brees but has missed the past four games. He has yet to play since returning to practice on a limited basis nearly two weeks ago.
The Saints already have clinched the NFC South title and now are vying for the NFC's top seed.
Saints’ sweep of Panthers never far from QB Newton’s mind
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Cam Newton keeps a black and yellow broom he was "gifted" by the Saints hanging in his locker, some omnipresent motivation after what happened a year ago when the Panthers met up with their NFC South rivals.
New Orleans swept Carolina, winning both regular-season games in 2017 before eliminating the Panthers from the first round of the playoffs in January with a 31-26 win at the Superdome.
Falcons face major task in rebuilding their running game
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Coach Dan Quinn is not quite ready to look at rebuilding the Atlanta Falcons' running game for next year.
He's more concerned with stopping a five-game losing streak that derailed the season and dropped the Falcons (4-9) to the bottom of the NFC South.
Brees leads 2nd-half comeback, Saints beat Buccaneers 28-14
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The New Orleans Saints are a long way from where they want to be.
For now, though, repeating as NFC South champions for the first time in franchise history feels pretty good.
"Goal No. 1 was to win the division again and we were able to do that," Drew Brees said Sunday after throwing for one touchdown and running for another to help the Saints rally from an 11-point halftime deficit to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28-14.
Patriots, Chiefs, Saints can earn playoff spots
The Los Angeles Rams already have won the NFC West and could have some company in the playoffs by the end of Sunday's play.
Plus, the Rams can clinch a first-round bye with a victory at Chicago in the night game.
New Orleans will win the NFC South by beating or tying Tampa Bay or having Carolina lose or tie at Cleveland. The Saints get a playoff berth with a Minnesota defeat and losses or ties by Philadelphia and Washington. But the Vikings don't play until Monday night at Seattle.
Saints aim to get back on track against Buccaneers
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Buccaneers pulled off the biggest upset of the opening week of the NFL season, beating the Saints in a high-scoring shootout. Three months later, neither team is looking back.
New Orleans (10-2) is on the verge of clinching another NFC South title. Tampa Bay (5-7) is trying to escape a deep hole and climb back into playoff contention.
"It does feel like it's been quite a while," Saints coach Sean Payton said, reflecting on his team's 48-40 loss to the Bucs in Week 1.
Saints-Buccaneers Preview Capsule
NEW ORLEANS (10-2) at TAMPA BAY (5-7)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox
OPENING LINE - Saints by 9 1/2
RECORD VS. SPREAD - New Orleans 9-3, Tampa Bay 5-6-1
SERIES RECORD - New Orleans leads 32-21
LAST MEETING - Buccaneers beat Saints 48-40, Sept. 9
LAST WEEK - Saints lost to Cowboys 13-10; Buccaneers beat Panthers 24-17
AP PRO32 RANKING - Saints No. 2, Buccaneers No. 20
SAINTS OFFENSE - OVERALL (6), RUSH (9), PASS (12).
SAINTS DEFENSE - OVERALL (16), RUSH (1), PASS (30).
Brees, Saints never find rhythm as 10-game win streak ends
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Drew Brees didn't have a completion until the final play of the first quarter. His final pass, one he was trying to throw away, got intercepted.
And things certainly weren't much better in between for Brees and the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints, whose 10-game winning streak ended in a 13-10 loss at the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night.
QBs looking to elevate Panthers, Buccaneers down stretch
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Cam Newton and Jameis Winston know there's no surefire way for a quarterback to lead a team out of a funk.
What works in one situation may not necessarily be the answer in another.
Newton's second-place Carolina Panthers (6-5) have lost three straight games following a 6-2 start, moving closer to the bottom of the NFC South than the top.
Falcons preparing for new challenge from Ravens QB Jackson
ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons must prepare for two quarterbacks as they await Sunday's visit from the Baltimore Ravens.
Of the two, rookie Lamar Jackson is the hot topic of the week in the Falcons' locker room.
The Falcons, who face Carolina and Cam Newton in the NFC South twice each season, have prepared for other mobile quarterbacks. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett says Jackson belongs in a different category.
Saints’ winning streak should ring bell for opposing Cowboys
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Drew Brees and the Saints have a chance to do something that should seem familiar to Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys. If it happens, New Orleans might even have the NFC South title already in hand by the end of the week.
The record-setting quarterback will go for an 11th straight win after a season-opening loss in a visit to the Cowboys on Thursday night. That's exactly what Dallas did when Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott were rookie sensations in 2016.
Saints-Cowboys Preview Capsule
NEW ORLEANS (10-1) at DALLAS (6-5)
Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET, Fox
OPENING LINE — Saints by 7
RECORD VS. SPREAD — Saints 9-2, Cowboys 6-5
SERIES RECORD — Cowboys lead 16-12
LAST MEETING — Saints 26 beat Cowboys 20, OT, Oct. 4, 2015
LAST WEEK — Saints beat Falcons 31-17; Cowboys beat Redskins 31-23
AP PRO32 RANKING — Saints No. 1; Cowboys No. 12
SAINTS OFFENSE — OVERALL (5), RUSH (6), PASS (6)
SAINTS DEFENSE — OVERALL (15), RUSH (1), PASS (30)
COWBOYS OFFENSE — OVERALL (25), RUSH (5), PASS (28)
Falcons consider OL changes to find protection for QB Ryan
ATLANTA (AP) — Changes are being considered on Atlanta's offensive line after Matt Ryan was sacked six times in the latest of the Falcons' three straight losses.
Coach Dan Quinn said Friday backup linemen Zane Beadles and Ty Sambrailo could have bigger roles as the Falcons try to find better protection for Ryan and improved run blocking.
Seahawks, Panthers chasing same wild-card possibilities
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The good news for the Carolina Panthers is they return home Sunday to face the Seattle Seahawks where they've won 10 straight games.
The bad news is it's highly unlikely the Panthers will play a playoff game in Charlotte, North Carolina, if they reach the postseason.
Saints win 10th straight, eliminate Falcons in NFC South
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees made Atlanta pay for losing track of his inexperienced receivers, and New Orleans' defense halted several promising Falcons drives with forced fumbles they could not afford.
Cowboys tie Redskins for 1st in NFC East; Bears top Lions
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees threw four touchdown passes to inexperienced receivers and the New Orleans Saints won their 10th straight game Thursday night with a 31-17 victory over Atlanta that eliminated the Falcons from contention in the NFC South.
Big 12 breaks out in NFL, can Saints top Chiefs-Rams totals?
Now that we've seen Big 12 football break out in the NFL — Rams 54, Chiefs 51 — can we get a college hoops score out of the Saints?
The Who-Dats will be rocking the Superdome on Thanksgiving night, with New Orleans facing its archrival, the Atlanta Falcons. The Saints are running away with the NFC South and the Falcons have faltered badly, but this is almost always a tense, close affair.
Saints still on top of Pro32 poll; Rams 2nd, Chiefs 3rd
NEW YORK (AP) — Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints just keep on rolling.
The Saints extended their winning streak to nine games with a 48-7 rout of the Eagles, handing them the most lopsided defeat for a Super Bowl champion.
And the Saints will also get an early start on trying to make it 10 wins in a row when they host NFC South rival Atlanta on Thanksgiving night.
Buccaneers searching for answers to defensive woes
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — It doesn't matter if Jameis Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick is at quarterback for the Buccaneers. A porous defense keeps undermining Tampa Bay's chances of winning.
The Bucs (3-5) have lost five of six following a 2-0 start. Neither changing quarterbacks nor firing defensive coordinator Mike Smith has been an answer to ending a tailspin that's dropped the team into a familiar hole: last place in the NFC South, where they've finished six of the last seven seasons.
Panthers have stability at QB, Bucs seeking it in NFC South
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers have stability at the quarterback position. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are desperately in search of the same.
The teams appear headed in different directions entering an NFC South showdown Sunday in Charlotte — and quarterback play is a big reason why.
Saints scratch Peat vs. Ravens, hope Ginn plays this season
METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Saints coach Sean Payton says there is a "very realistic" possibility of injured receiver Ted Ginn Jr. playing again this season.
Meanwhile, New Orleans has ruled out left guard Andrus Peat and listed right guard Larry Warford as questionable for Sunday's game at Baltimore.
Peat has missed practice this week with a head injury, while Warford has been hampered by back soreness.
Winston’s focus on helping Buccaneers improve on 2-2 start
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — While most of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used their bye week to get away from work and relax, Jameis Winston stayed closer to home and continued to prepare for his first start in nearly 10 months.
The No. 1 overall pick from the 2015 draft missed the first three games of the season while serving a suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.
Fan of stingy defenses? Bucs-Falcons is not the place to be
ATLANTA (AP) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers must be licking their chops for the chance to go against the Atlanta defense.
Then again, the Falcons' offense is surely just as pumped to get on the field against the Bucs.
Falcons have gone from high hopes to major disappointment
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Calvin Ridley is going through quite an adjustment.
During his college days at Alabama, he hardly knew what it was like to lose.
"It was three games, right?" Ridley said Wednesday, pausing briefly to ponder whether his memory was correct. "Three games," he repeated, shaking his head. "That's crazy."
The receiver already has tasted more defeat in his rookie season with the Atlanta Falcons.
Bears, Buccaneers meet in matchup of unexpected leaders
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears are staring down at the rest of the NFC North for the first time in five years.
The view from the top is quite a change for a franchise stuck at the bottom the past few seasons.
The Bears meet the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday in a matchup between unlikely division leaders, with Chicago in sole possession of first place for the first time since Marc Trestman was the coach and Jay Cutler the quarterback.
Falcons wary of defending Saints’ ‘maestro’ Drew Brees
ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons may be a step ahead of the New Orleans Saints in the search for balance on offense.
That's not enough to make Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel rest easy. The Saints have Drew Brees, and the veteran quarterback's guile is enough to make any defensive coach lose sleep.
Payton says Saints’ last-ranked run game not in ‘crisis’
METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Saints coach Sean Payton said it's too early to judge New Orleans' last-ranked running game.
Falcons dispute report that RB Freeman out for 2-3 weeks
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons disputed a report that running back Devonta Freeman will be out for as long as three weeks with a knee injury.
Coach Dan Quinn said Monday that Freeman is listed as day to day.
Freeman injured his right knee in a Week 1 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and didn't play in Sunday's 31-24 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
Falcons survive to beat Panthers 31-24 in NFC South thriller
ATLANTA (AP) — The Carolina Panthers somehow found a way to have a last-gasp chance to beat the Atlanta Falcons after twice trailing by 14 points in the second half.
Welcome back to the NFC South. It shaping up to be another entertaining race.
Panthers CB Bradberry seeks breakout year vs NFL’s top WRs
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Panthers cornerback James Bradberry has set his sights on becoming an All-Pro cornerback this season.
He will certainly have the opportunity to prove he belongs in that category.
The Panthers third-year cover man will face the some of the league's best wide receivers in the coming weeks, beginning with Atlanta's Julio Jones on Sunday.
Panthers, Falcons look to make early statement in NFC South
ATLANTA (AP) — One season after the NFC South sent three teams to the playoffs, the division may be just as deep.
The Atlanta Falcons know they can't afford to fall too far behind in the division as they prepare to play the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Atlanta made the playoffs at 10-6 in 2017 despite finishing third in the South, behind New Orleans and Carolina.
Saints aim to end opening day skid vs. Bucs
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan remembers all too well the last time New Orleans entered a season with a lot of hype.
The Saints seemed like a good bet to make the playoffs for a fifth time in six seasons back in 2014. Instead, they stumbled to a 7-9 record in what became the first of three straight frustrating, sub-.500 campaigns before they won the NFC South last season.
NFL 2018: Saints, Falcons, Panthers headline tough NFC South
Recent history would indicate that the NFC South is among the NFL's strongest divisions.
Three of its four teams — New Orleans, Atlanta and Carolina — made the playoffs last season. The Falcons are only two seasons removed from an overtime loss in the Super Bowl.
Yet, in today's NFL, fortunes have been known to vacillate widely from one year to the next.
Cam Newton: Time for Panthers to ‘take back the division’
SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — An optimistic Cam Newton says he's adjusting well to a new offensive scheme and boldly proclaimed it's time for the Carolina Panthers to "take back the division."
Wearing a "Change the culture" t-shirt and a "Keep Pounding" hat, an upbeat Newton was budding with enthusiasm on Saturday even after starting right tackle Daryl Williams went down with a knee injury earlier in practice.
Aging Panthers feeling sense of urgency to win Super Bowl
SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Tight end Greg Olsen realizes there's a sense of urgency to win a Super Bowl ring now for a returning core group of Carolina Panthers who are fast approaching the end of their NFL careers.
Julius Peppers is 38 years old. Mike Adams is 37. Thomas Davis is 35. Ryan Kalil is 33, and has already said this year will be his last. The roster includes 19 players that are 29 or older, including Cam Newton.
Saints Training Camp Capsule
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (12-6)
OPEN CAMP: July 26, Ochsner Sports Performance Center, Metairie, Louisiana
Falcons Training Camp Capsule
ATLANTA FALCONS (11-7)
OPEN CAMP: July 27, Falcons practice facility, Flowery Branch, Georgia
NFC South Training Camp Capsules
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (12-6)
OPEN CAMP: July 26, Ochsner Sports Performance Center, Metairie, Louisiana
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms with third-round draft pick Deadrin Senat, a defensive tackle from South Florida.
The deal leaves only the team's first-round pick, wide receiver Calvin Ridley of Alabama, unsigned before Friday's opening of a two-day rookie minicamp.
Of the team's six draft picks, Senat may have the clearest path to a starting job. There is an opening at defensive tackle after free agent Dontari Poe signed with NFC South rival Carolina.
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms with four of their six draft picks, including cornerback Isaiah Oliver, a second-round pick from Colorado.
The Falcons also announced they have agreed to terms with running back Ito Smith, a fourth-round pick, and their two sixth-round picks, wide receiver Russell Gage and linebacker Foye Oluokun.
NEW YORK (AP) — Eight NFL teams will carry on their practice squads a player who came from an expanded program for overseas players.
The International Player Pathway was instituted last year. It aims to provide international athletes the opportunity to compete at the NFL level.
Alex Gray (Atlanta Falcons), Alex Jenkins (New Orleans Saints), Eric Nzeocha (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Efe Obada (Carolina Pathners) participated in 2017 and will return to those NFC South teams.
Panthers upgrade speed to keep up with NFC South
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — General manager Marty Hurney felt he needed to upgrade team speed after the Panthers failed to win the NFC South the last two seasons.
New Orleans Saints’ Marshon Lattimore, Alvin Kamara are ultimate chess pieces
Where would the Saints be without first-round CB Marshon Lattimore and third-round RB Alvin Kamara — Pro Football Weekly’s Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year, respectively?
We can tell you where the NFC South champs almost assuredly wouldn’t be: one win from the franchise's first conference title game since Kamara was a high-school freshman and Lattimore was in eighth grade, back in 2009.
Saints assert they’ve evolved considerably since Week 1
METAIRIE, La. (AP) — For Saints coach Sean Payton and his players, it's a bit of a stretch to call their return to Minnesota a rematch.
Sixteen games have passed since Week 1, when the Saints needed a late, inconsequential touchdown just to reduce the Vikings' victory margin to 10 points.
Saints beat Panthers, confident about rematch with Vikings
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints face the prospect of seeing their season end where it began.
That is, unless they've improved enough to turn the tables on the Minnesota Vikings, who beat New Orleans convincingly in Week 1.
"That feels like ages and ages ago," Brees said of the 29-19 loss in Minnesota, describing the difference between the Saints then and now as "night and day."