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Monday, November 22, 2010
Huge week in the NFC South

By Pat Yasinskas

The NFC South could be facing the biggest regular season week in its history over the next few days.

Three teams will play marquee games and the fourth at least plays a game with some decent subplots. It all starts Thursday afternoon when the New Orleans Saints play the Dallas Cowboys in a Thanksgiving game.

I’ll be in Texas to cover that game and it’s a bigger game than you might think. Although the Cowboys started off the season miserably, they have won their two games since Jason Garrett took over as coach. The Saints also might be out for a bit of revenge because Dallas ended their 13-game winning streak last year. Plus, it’s Thanksgiving and this will be the only game in this time slot. Everybody will be watching and the Saints can’t afford to fall too far behind the Falcons in the division standings.

I’ll leave Dallas and head over to Atlanta for a game that has the potential to be a preview of the NFC Championship Game. The Falcons will host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET in the Georgia Dome.

About the time that game ends, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will begin a huge game in Baltimore. The Bucs are 7-3 and coming off a shutout victory in San Francisco. But skeptics say the Bucs have yet to beat anyone of consequence. If they can win against the Ravens, that argument will be over.

Finally, Sunday’s game between Carolina and Cleveland isn’t as big a deal as the other three NFC South games. But I hope the Browns have the courtesy to give Panthers owner Jerry Richardson a really good seat. After all, he’s already paid Cleveland reserve quarterback Jake Delhomme $12.675 million this year and, if Carolina coach John Fox makes it to the end of his contract, he’ll have collected $6.5 million this season.