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Friday, November 21, 2008
Audibles: Week 12 NFC South preview

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Detroit Lions (0-10) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3), 1 p.m. ET
It's been pretty amazing in the Tampa Bay area this week. There seems to be a large chunk of the population that suddenly is very worried about the winless Detroit Lions.

The theory goes something like this -- the Lions have former Bucs assistant Rod Marinelli as their head coach (as of the moment, anyway) and a bunch of former Tampa Bay players on their roster and this game has "trap'' written all over it.

Yeah, but there's a reason why all those guys are "former'' Bucs and this game should have "win'' written all over it. Sure, the Bucs often make things more interesting than necessary. But, if they're going to overtake Carolina in this division, the Bucs have to take care of the easy games as the Panthers head into the hard part of their schedule.

Carolina Panthers (8-2) at Atlanta Falcons (6-4), 4:15 p.m. ET
A couple years ago, the Panthers were getting such bad play at quarterback (Chris Weinke), they went into the Georgia Dome and Dan Henning and John Fox resorted to the Wildcat formation that has become the rage around the rest of the league this year.

Jake Delhomme's struggled mightily, passing for less than 100 yards in each of the last two games. And those were against Detroit and Oakland. But I just don't see the Panthers resorting to something so desperate this time around. Although running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have done a nice job bailing Delhomme out the last two weeks.

I look for the Panthers to get back to their most basic offensive philosophy this week. That's Delhomme throwing the ball to Steve Smith, repeatedly. That's also a good way to bust a slump.

Green Bay Packers (5-5) at New Orleans Saints (5-5), 8:30 p.m. ET, Monday
First the good news: The Saints will be playing in the Superdome for the first time in 42 days. Now, the bad: It's a Monday night game.

When it comes to "Monday Night Football," the Saints have been horrible. Only the Falcons have a worse history under the brightest of lights. The Saints are 8-17 (.320) in appearances on Monday. The Falcons are 9-21 (.300).

And you can't even make the case that the Saints' Monday woes all stem back from the bad old days. The last time the Saints played a game on Monday night was one of the most disastrous games in franchise history.

Earlier this year, they squandered two punt returns for touchdowns by Reggie Bush and a late fourth-quarter lead and lost to the Minnesota Vikings. At 5-5, there is no margin for error for the Saints. They have to find a way to win this game (and just about all the rest) to make the playoffs.