NFC South: 2010 Week 3 Wrap-ups

Wrap-up: Steelers 38, Buccaneers 13

September, 26, 2010
What it means: All dynasties have to end sometime. Come on, did you really think the Bucs would keep winning? They beat two bad teams -- Cleveland and Carolina. Against a good team, we found out what we already knew. The Bucs probably aren’t headed for the playoffs this year. They’re improving and they’re going to keep improving, but there’s still a lot to be done before they’re ready to play with the big boys.

Could have seen this coming: Sitting in Tampa International Airport, which isn't Josh Freeman International Airport just yet, on Saturday afternoon, I saw the plane I was going to board unload passengers. It was coming from Philadelphia, which isn’t exactly Steelers territory. But, if you know anything about airline hubs these days, you could figure that a lot of people on that flight didn’t begin their day in Philadelphia. I saw at least 25 people wearing Steelers gear. Sounds like it was more of the same inside Raymond James Stadium as Pittsburgh fans had more of a presence than Tampa Bay fans.

Big revelation: There had been a lot of talk about how good Tampa Bay’s defense was. But that came after the Bucs beat Jake Delhomme and the guy who (momentarily) replaced Delhomme (Matt Moore). They got Charlie Batch on Sunday, and I don’t know that anyone has ever called Batch a big-time quarterback. But he has good players around him and that meant a reality check for Tampa Bay’s defense. If you’re letting Batch hang 30-plus points on the board, you have room for improvement.

What’s next: The bye week. Yeah, it’s early and some fans were griping about the fact it might stop Tampa Bay’s momentum. Well, Pittsburgh took care of that. The Bucs can take the good things from their two wins and try to continue to build on them as they get in a little extra practice time before going to Cincinnati on Oct. 10.

Wrap-up: Bengals 20, Panthers 7

September, 26, 2010
What it means: Carolina’s problems go far beyond the quarterback situation following a 20-7 loss to the Bengals. Rookie Jimmy Clausen got his first NFL start and didn’t provide much more of a spark than Matt Moore did in the first two games. At least there’s some upside with Clausen and the Panthers might as well get him as much playing time as possible because it’s looking more and more like the Panthers should start getting ready for next year.

Tomorrow’s Talker: For a long time now, the popular debate has been if coach John Fox, whose contract expires after the season, will be with the Panthers next year. I think it’s time to change the syntax a bit and make the question: “Will Fox even last the rest of this season?’’ Yeah, things have gotten that bad in Carolina. I’m not saying owner Jerry Richardson is going to come out and fire Fox tomorrow. But, as the losses pile up and it becomes obvious there’s no way Fox returns, you have to wonder if Richardson will let this thing drag on all season. Unless there’s sudden improvement, November and December could be the time frame in Richardson has to make a move.

Could have seen this coming: Wide receiver Steve Smith reportedly was barking at Clausen on the field and on the sideline during the game. Smith was quiet and diplomatic in the locker room after the game. But a competitor like Smith, who didn’t have a catch until the fourth quarter and finished with three for 22 yards, isn’t going to stay quiet forever. Like I said, the next few months could be very interesting around the Panthers, for all the wrong reasons.

What’s next: For their next trick, the Panthers get to travel to the Superdome to play the defending Super Bowl champions, who just might feel like they’ve got something to prove after Sunday’s overtime loss to Atlanta. After that, the Panthers will hold “the inaugural Julius Peppers Homecoming Party’’ when they host Chicago Oct. 10.