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Thursday, December 29, 2011
Hitting the NFC South links

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Let's take a look at some of the day's top headlines from around the NFC South:

With Cam Newton sitting courtside in Charlotte on Wednesday night, Miami Heat star Dwayne Wade hit a game-winning shot against the Bobcats. Wade then did the “Superman’’ celebration we’ve seen Newton do so many times this season. Wade said it was out of respect for the quarterback of the Carolina Panthers.

In his weekly film study, Jeff Duncan makes a very good point. With all the attention on Drew Brees and the New Orleans passing game, we tend to forget how well the Saints are running the ball. In their current seven-game winning streak, the Saints have rushed for 100 yards six times and are averaging 5.3 yards per carry. That running game could come in handy if the Saints end up playing an outdoor game in rough weather in the playoffs.

Here’s a good comparison between the 2009 Saints and this year’s team.

Atlanta coach Mike Smith has said several times that simply making the playoffs is not the organization’s goal. Jeff Schultz takes a look at different scenarios that could define a successful season. I’m thinking at the very least the Falcons would get some satisfaction from winning in the playoffs for the first time under Smith. But this was a team that went out and got Julio Jones and Ray Edwards in the offseason. Two playoff wins might be viewed as closer to a successful season.

Don Banks runs through the coaching carousel and says he doesn’t see Raheem Morris staying with Tampa Bay. Banks throws out several possible replacements. The one that might be worth keeping an eye on here is Mike Sherman. He has the same agent as Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik.

Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Greg Olson said he hasn’t lost faith in quarterback Josh Freeman. Olson said the lack of an offseason hurt the Bucs. I’d buy that if the Bucs hadn’t started 4-2 before going on a nine-game losing streak.