Time for a look at the top Saturday morning headlines from around the division:
Safety Thomas DeCoud won the Good Guy Award from the local chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America. Good choice. DeCoud is one of the best interviews in the NFC South.
The Falcons have declared safety William Moore (hamstring) and cornerback Christopher Owens (hamstring) out for Sunday’s game with Tampa Bay. Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (ribs), receiver Roddy White (knee), defensive tackle Corey Peters (knee) and defensive end Cliff Matthews (hamstring) are listed as questionable. Since the Falcons already have clinched all there is to clinch, I’d expect coach Mike Smith to be very cautious with the guys that are questionable.
Quarterback Cam Newton was fined $31,000 for kicking an opponent and making physical contact with an official during Sunday’s win against Oakland. Defensive end Greg Hardy was fined $25,000 for hitting quarterback Carson Palmer with his helmet. Safety Charles Godfrey was fined $21,000 for hitting a receiver in the head.
Center Geoff Hangartner, running back Jonathan Stewart and linebacker James Anderson all are listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with New Orleans.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Mike Triplett writes that it’s a good thing the Saints and coach Sean Payton agreed to a contract extension when they did. If this situation had dragged into next week when other teams start firing coaches, things could have gotten ugly. Payton could have been at the center of a bidding war and the Saints could have permanently lost their coach, which would have been catastrophic.
Running back Pierre Thomas, defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and cornerback Jabari Greer have all been declared out for the final game because of injuries.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Stephen Holder speculates that the Bucs might hold cornerback Eric Wright, who just returned from a suspension, out of Sunday’s game with Atlanta. It makes perfect sense to hold Wright out to avoid injury, if the Bucs are planning to release him after the season. I think that’s a good possibility. I think it’s highly unlikely the Bucs will pay Wright $7.75 million in base salary when they can free up the exact same amount in salary-cap space by releasing him. The only way I see Wright staying with the Bucs is if he takes a pay cut. Wright’s first season with the Bucs was plagued by injuries and the suspension and, when he was on the field, he didn’t do anything special.
Tampa Bay's defensive backfield has taken lots of criticism, but here's an article that praises the play of the front seven.