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Final Word: NFC South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 5:

Not ready to trade in the Caddy. I think there’s been a bit of overreaction to Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris saying running backs Kareem Huggins and LeGarrette Blount are going to get increased playing time. Yeah, that’s going to happen. But Morris never has said Cadillac Williams is being benched or anything close to that. He’s still the starter and he’s still going to get the bulk of the carries. Huggins and Blount will get some carries and part of the reason for this is the Bucs think a little lighter load might make Williams more effective.

The homecoming. Chicago defensive end Julius Peppers returns to Bank of America Stadium on Sunday. A lot of people used to say Peppers didn’t show up all the time when he played for the Panthers. I think it’s a given that he’ll show up for this one because he wants to make a statement. That’s going to put the heat on Carolina tackle Jordan Gross. But if the hapless Panthers have one thing going for them, it’s that Peppers and Gross spent most of their careers practicing against each other. Gross is a pretty strong blocker and he might be able to keep Peppers from rubbing too much salt into the wounds of his former team. But the Bears have been giving Peppers the freedom to line up wherever he wants. He may avoid Gross some of the time and go after Geoff Schwartz on the right side.

The slumping Saints? There’s been all sorts of talk about how the Saints are winning ugly. I don’t dispute that, but they are 3-1 and loaded with talent. At some point, things are going to click and the Saints are going to put together a pretty win. I think it comes Sunday in Arizona. The Saints aren’t going to play down to the level of competition in this one.

A new MVP. Pretty much since we started the Blog Network in the summer of 2008, I’ve been saying Drew Brees is the best current player in the NFC South. At least for the moment, I’m going to back off that. I still think Brees is one heck of a quarterback and I’m not all that concerned that his numbers are down a bit so far this year. But, after four games, I feel very strongly that Atlanta receiver Roddy White has been the NFC South’s Most Valuable Player. Time for this guy to start getting the league-wide recognition he deserves.

Mismatch? Even with the Rays in the playoffs and the Bucs coming off a bye week, there’s a pretty good buzz in Tampa Bay about how the Bucs are going to handle Cincinnati receivers Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens (too bad Antonio Bryant's not part of the mix). With rookie Cody Grimm getting his second start at free safety, that’s a legitimate concern. But the rest of Tampa Bay’s secondary is pretty good. Aqib Talib, Ronde Barber and Sean Jones need to help Grimm out a bit. But, here’s an idea: If the Bucs can start generating just a little bit of a consistent pass rush, the secondary can survive this one.