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Thursday, December 23, 2010
Hitting the NFC South hot spots

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Time for what probably will be a final dip into the mailbag before Christmas. Joey in Marietta, Ga., asked the usual question about the lack of attention the NFC South -- and particularly the Falcons -- get from the national media and wonders if that will change if the Falcons go deep into the playoffs.

Pat Yasinskas: Well, I won’t promise that it’s for the long haul. But I think things are at least starting to change for the short term. With the upcoming "Monday Night Football" game, the Saints and Falcons definitely will be in the spotlight. The Saints certainly got their time in the national media last season. The NFC South is often in a tough spot because the franchises aren’t storied and the markets aren't big. But the solution for that is to just go out and there will come a point where you can’t be overlooked.


Dan in Leesburg, Va., showed his appreciation for my reference to the movie “Kingpin’’ in Wednesday’s Stock Watch item on Carolina receivers Brandon LaFell and David Gettis.

Pat Yasinskas: Thanks. Glad someone caught it and wasn’t too stuck on being literal to appreciate the humor in that one. "Kingpin" was a great movie and you might see another reference to it from time to time. I’m trying to figure out how to reference the scene where Randy Quaid’s character Ish tells Roy Munson, played by Woody Harrelson, that he has a 279 average. After he goes out and rolls a game well below that, Munson reminds asks him about the 279 average. Ish confirms it, but quickly adds, “Where I come from we bowl 15 frames." Classic stuff, in my eyes. Some regular readers have noticed that "Caddyshack'' and "Something About Mary'' references sometimes are used here.


Eric in Gainesville, Ga., asks if I’ve ever seen more excitement surrounding the Atlanta Falcons and also goes on to sing the praises of owner Arthur Blank.

Pat Yasinskas: It’s definitely the most excitement about the Falcons I’ve seen since I’ve been in this role, which is nice to see. I’m sure there was plenty of excitement when the Falcons last went to the Super Bowl in the 1998 season, but I wasn’t covering the Falcons then, so I can’t really offer a good comparison there. However, I will tell you I think the Falcons are a fun team to cover and I think they’re a very likable team for fans. Kind of goes back to Joey’s question above. If the Falcons keep winning, I think they can develop a decent national following because they’ve got some high-profile players with interesting personalities. And, yes, I’ll side with you on Blank. He clearly is an owner who went through some tough times. But the man learned from his mistakes, fixed them and is a big part of the reason why this team is where it is now.


Adam in Gastonia asks if the Panthers should add a veteran quarterback in free agency, even if they draft another quarterback early next year.

Pat Yasinskas: Absolutely. I think one of the mistakes the team made this year was not having any real experience at quarterback. The Panthers wanted to find out what they had in Matt Moore and they surrounded him with rookies Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike. Then, to make matters worse, coach John Fox spent much of training camp giving Hunter Cantwell the second-team work ahead of Clausen and Pike, which infuriated some important people within the organization. No matter what happens, I’m of the opinion that the Panthers should carry at least one veteran quarterback. He doesn’t have to be a particularly good one and doesn’t even have to play. It would just be nice for the young guys to have someone to lean on as a mentor.


Scott in Tampa asks if Tampa Bay receiver Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount have a chance at rookie of the year.

Pat Yasinskas: They both have been excellent, but I think they’ll end up a little short in the voting and St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford will win it. Not saying that’s entirely fair, but that’s the way it usually works. Bradford is a quarterback, so he’s going to draw the attention.


Troy in New Orleans writes: Are you saying Trent Dilfer presented you with a gift because he just lit up the NFC South buzz for you or are you saying it to be facetious because you absolutely disagree with him?

Pat Yasinskas: I was being facetious because Trent created an unexpected buzz and a lot of traffic during a holiday week when things can be a little quiet. I really couldn’t care less on what Trent said and, in my role, I'm going to try my best to play it straight down the middle in any arguments over Atlanta and New Orleans. Part of my job is to throw things out there for readers to elicit their reaction. In this case, Trent handed me a waist-high fastball and I tossed it out there as a softball for readers to debate. Judging by the number of comments, it seems to have served its purpose. Thanks to Trent and, now, Roddy White, this has become a much more interesting and busy week than I was anticipating, which is nice.