Around the NFC South

A look at the morning's top headlines from around the NFC South.

Tennessee running back Chris Johnson is off to a slow start and the Panthers don’t want to be the team that helps him get hot. That’s a legitimate concern, because Carolina’s run defense has struggled all season.

The Falcons have 20 players who are in the last year of their contract. The list includes veterans like Tony Gonzalez, Todd McClure and John Abraham. Retirement is an option for any of those three. But the Falcons might try to lock up some of their younger players with extensions before the season ends. Linebacker Curtis Lofton, cornerback Brent Grimes and safety Thomas DeCoud lead the list of young players that the Falcons likely want to keep around.

Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik said the Bucs would not have claimed Albert Haynesworth off waivers if the team hadn’t lost defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to a season-ending injury.

Brian de la Peunte was thrown into the starting center job for the Saints. But quarterback Drew Brees said de la Peunte has been “Mr. Steady’’.