NFC South halftime thoughts

September, 16, 2012
9/16/12
2:25
PM ET
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- We have two excellent games going on in the NFC South.

At halftime, the Carolina Panthers are leading the New Orleans Saints, 21-13. Up in New Jersey, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are leading the New York Giants, 17-13, late in the first half.

Although the Saints are playing better than they were a week ago, Carolina currently has the momentum in what is turning into an emotional game. The Panthers took the lead on a short touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Jonathan Stewart. But Carolina receiver Steve Smith is becoming the story in this one.

It was Smith’s catch of a 35-yard pass from Newton that set up the go-ahead touchdown. On the play where Stewart scored, Smith, who has some unfriendly history with the New Orleans secondary, got into a tussle with Malcolm Jenkins. I’m going to keep a close eye on Smith in the second half.

Smith’s a good player under any circumstances, but he usually is at his best when his anger level is riding high.

The Panthers added a touchdown on a 2-yard run by Mike Tolbert with 11 seconds left in the first half. It's worth noting that the rain has picked up a bit here in recent moments and the forecast says it may get heavier in the second half. Some people say the Saints are a "dome team''. If that's true, they could be in rough shape if the weather does get worse.

Up at MetLife Stadium, the Bucs got a huge play from veteran defensive back Ronde Barber. He intercepted an Eli Manning pass to set up a touchdown by rookie running back Doug Martin. The Bucs also scored an earlier touchdown when Josh Freeman hooked up with Vincent Jackson. That’s precisely why the Bucs are paying Jackson huge money.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the second halves of both games. I’ll be back with a Rapid Reaction on the Panthers-Saints game as soon as it ends and I’ll have a wrap-up on the Bucs and Giants a bit later.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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