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Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Around the NFC South

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Time for a look at the top headlines from around the NFC South.

Mike Triplett notes that each of the last four games between the Saints and Falcons has been decided by three points. That’s why this has become the NFC South’s best rivalry. In fact, I think you could make a case that this has become one of the league’s best rivalries.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers are out to win their final two games and aren’t playing for draft position. That’s exactly the way the Panthers should be approaching this. They’ve got a chance to finish this season with some positive momentum that can carry over to next year. Just think back to John Fox’s first season (2002). That Carolina team finished strong and the Panthers were in the Super Bowl the next season.

Carolina’s defensive backfield is very banged-up. There is some hope that Charles Godfrey and Darius Butler can play Sunday against Tampa Bay, but the outlook isn’t as bright on starting cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.

Roy Cummings explores the future of Tampa Bay cornerback Aqib Talib, who will finish the season on injured reserve. Talib remains under contract to the Buccaneers through 2012, but he’s facing trial on an assault charge in March. That could lead to jail time or a suspension by the NFL. Even if Talib is cleared of the charge, there’s no guarantee he’ll be back with the Bucs. Coach Raheem Morris has been a big supporter of Talib. But Morris is on the hot seat with the Bucs on a losing streak. If a new coach comes in, he might not want Talib.

Although Atlanta defensive end Ray Edwards has come on lately, he told Jeff Schultz he’s still not at full strength after offseason knee surgery.

Lots of fans were curious about why general manager Mark Dominik was seen wearing a headset during Saturday night’s game with Dallas. Stephen Holder has the answer. The Bucs say Dominik wears the headset to keep in contact with Morris about injuries and replay challenges.