Final Word: NFC South

September, 30, 2011
9/30/11
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 4:

Remember the Saints: On paper, Atlanta’s trip to Seattle looks like the perfect get-well game for a team that’s been struggling. Logic says this should be an easy win for the Falcons. But logic said the same thing the last time an NFC South team went into Seattle. That was in January, when the Saints came for a playoff game and wound up getting beat by the Seahawks. Seattle may not have a great team, but it’s a very tough place for a team to come into. Crowd noise, the long trip and the time change can all be factors. Just ask the Saints.

[+] EnlargeJordan Gross
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireJordan Gross will have his hands full proteccting Cam Newton from former teammate Julius Peppers on Sunday.
Matchup of the week: That would be Carolina left tackle Jordan Gross against Chicago defensive end Julius Peppers. Gross has more experience than any player in the league at blocking Peppers. Before joining the Bears last season, Peppers spent eight seasons in Carolina. Gross was drafted in 2003, the year after Peppers, and the two squared off in practice on a daily basis for most of their seven seasons together. Peppers probably won’t be able to fool Gross, so he’ll have to rely mostly on his pure athletic ability.

Carrying the banner: When the Saints play at Jacksonville on Sunday, they’ll be representing more than themselves. They’ll be representing the NFC South, and they have a chance to end an embarrassing streak. No NFC South team ever has won a regular-season game in Jacksonville. The Saints, Buccaneers, Falcons and Panthers each are 0-2 in trips to Jacksonville.

Watch out for Roman Harper: The New Orleans safety is a little bit like Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber in that he’s one of the best pass-rushing defensive backs in the NFL. That may be a little like saying someone has the strongest throwing arm of any first baseman in baseball, but it could be a big factor Sunday when the Saints face Jacksonville rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Since 2006, Harper has 12 sacks, the most by any safety in that span. Harper already has 2.5 sacks this year. You can bet defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will be blitzing Harper -- and some other defenders -- frequently against Gabbert.

History doesn’t matter in this one: The Colts and Buccaneers are playing on Monday night, which automatically brings back memories of the last time the two teams played a Monday night game. That was 2003, and the game was the official mark of Tampa Bay’s stumble after winning a Super Bowl championship. The Bucs led that game 35-14 with four minutes left in regulation. Peyton Manning engineered a dramatic comeback to force overtime, and the Colts kicked a field goal to win it. But Manning’s hurt and won’t play. Aside from Barber, no other Tampa Bay player was involved in that game. In fact, most of the young Buccaneers were in high school or junior high at the time.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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