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Monday, November 21, 2011
Hitting the NFC South links

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

There were a number of interesting developments around the NFC South as I was traveling earlier this afternoon. So let's use one rapid-fire post to cover a lot of ground.

Seriously? Tampa Bay running back LeGarrette Blount said he got some high praise from Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers after Sunday’s game.

“He told me he thinks I’m one of the best backs in the league,” Blount told the media Monday. “He told me I have a chance to be one of the greatest backs in this league and he said he doesn’t just say that to anybody. He feels like me and one other guy have the potentinal to stand out and be two of the best running backs to ever play the game.’’

Hmm, just a thought, but wouldn’t it be pretty funny if the (“one other guy’’) Rodgers was referring to was Kregg Lumpkin? I’ve spent a little time around Rodgers and the guy does have a great sense of humor.

Silencing Suh. The Carolina Panthers did a decent job of containing Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. They did that largely by double-teaming him. By one calculation, Suh was double-teamed on 63.3 percent of his snaps.

That’s not all that surprising. The Panthers have their problems, but the offensive line isn’t one of them. Ryan Kalil might be the best center in the league, Jordan Gross is an elite left tackle and Travelle Wharton is a very underrated guard.

Injury list growing. Carolina’s problems are mostly on defense and they might be getting even worse. Coach Ron Rivera said defensive end Charles Johnson will have an MRI on his shoulder and linebacker Omar Gaither suffered a setback on a knee injury that has limited his playing time.

Still chasing the dream. Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris said Monday his team’s goal at the start of the season was to win the NFC South and that hasn’t changed even though the Bucs are 4-6.

To borrow a line from the character “Phil’’ in the movie “The Hangover’’ a few hours before his missing friend was scheduled to be married, “Yeah, um, that’s not going to happen’’.

Now, I will say this, the playoffs still are a possibility for the Bucs. But they’re going to have to get hot and it has to happen immediately. They pretty much have to run the table to have any shot at the postseason and there haven’t been many signs lately that the Bucs, who have lost four straight, are on the verge of getting hot.

Brees on parade. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees used the bye week to make the talk-show rounds. He visited with Jay Leno and his next stop was “The Ellen DeGeneres Show." But I’m wondering if general manager Mickey Loomis and Brees’ agent spent any of the quiet time talking about a contract extension that I thought would have been done long ago?

Big decision ahead. Atlanta coach Mike Smith said Sam Baker is moving closer to returning from a back injury. But Smith said he’s not ready to determine if Baker will return to the starting lineup when he’s ready to play or if Will Svitek will stay there. Svitek has played pretty well and Baker was struggling earlier in the season.

Just my opinion, but I’d be inclined to stick with Svitek. I’m not sure how much individual credit he deserves, but Atlanta’s offensive line has been playing much better of late. Why break up the continuity?