NFC South: audibles NFC 5
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
A few weeks ago, you would have looked at this game and said there was no way the Falcons could go into Lambeau Field and win. Now, that's not out of the realm of possibility.
But it won't be easy. Atlanta hasn't played well on the road and 70,000 Cheeseheads aren't going to make life easy for rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. He's been just fine in the two home games, where Michael Turner was able to run wild against Detroit and Kansas City. But the Packers aren't the Lions or the Chiefs.
Atlanta's two losses came when Tampa Bay and Carolina took the ball out of Turner's hands and put it into Ryan's. Think the Packers might try to follow that route?
For a very long time, Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber has been one of the best and most dependable cornerbacks in the game. The last couple of weeks, however, Barber suddenly looks vulnerable.
The Tampa-2 defense is pretty good at covering over holes because the safeties give the corners plenty of help. But Denver's offense is clicking. If you thought Barber has been targeted the last couple of weeks, you haven't seen anything yet.
On the surface, this looks like an easy game for Carolina and a tune-up before next week's division showdown with Tampa Bay.
If this sounds like a classic "trap'' game that's only because it is. Throw in the fact that left tackle Jordan Gross (concussion) will miss the game and right tackle Jeff Otah (ankle) is doubtful and Carolina has to take this game very seriously.
Quarterback Jake Delhomme has looked great in his return from Tommy John elbow surgery. But the absence of the starting tackles could prompt the Panthers to be cautious and not have Delhomme take many deep drops. Third-down back Nick Goings has missed some blocks this season and the role of the running backs as blockers will take on added importance with the injuries up front.
The one player the Panthers have to keep healthy is Delhomme.
The latest injury news for the banged-up Saints is that rookie defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis will be out at least a couple of weeks with a knee problem. That's the last thing you want to hear when Adrian Peterson is coming to town.
More than ever, that puts the pressure on the offense. Particularly quarterback Drew Brees, who has kept this team respectable through all the injuries. Brees keeps putting up huge numbers, no matter who is around him.
It looks like Brees will get some more consistent help from the running game now that Deuce McAllister has shown he's got something left. Even without suspended guard Jamar Nesbit, the Saints have done a good job protecting Brees.
But the quarterback will have to be sharper (and quicker) than usual because the Minnesota defensive front is the best he's seen this year. If Brees can lead the Saints to a win in this one, they'll have a chance at a 4-2 start because Oakland comes to the Superdome next.