Audibles: NFC South Week 3 preview

September, 19, 2008
9/19/08
4:06
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) at Atlanta Falcons (1-1) 1 p.m. ET

Still not sure what the "real'' Atlanta offense looks like. It was great in Week 1 against Detroit and lousy in Week 2 versus Tampa Bay.

I'm guessing that had something to do with the competition. Drawing Kansas City in the Georgia Dome this week is probably the best thing that can happen for rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, who took a beating from the Bucs.

The Falcons are painfully aware they need to keep the pressure off Ryan by using Michael Turner, Jerious Norwood and the running game extensively. Even against the Chiefs, Ryan's not ready to win a game on his own yet.

Carolina Panthers (2-0) at Minnesota Vikings (0-2) 1 p.m. ET

Had a question from a reader on a chat this morning, basically asking if Carolina's defensive line is any good.

Truth is, I don't know yet. I don't think anybody knows yet. But I think we're all about to find out. The defensive front needs to have a good game against Minnesota. That's not going to be easy, especially if Adrian Peterson is playing.

I know Carolina's defensive line (particularly Julius Peppers) has been taking heat because it hasn't come up with a lot of sacks. John Fox gladly will tell you sacks aren't the true measure of a defensive line. But, deep down, he wants sacks.

Maybe the sacks will start coming this week. Gus Frerotte isn't exactly a mobile quarterback. But the defensive line has to do its part if it wants to get a shot at some sacks. The defense needs to shut Peterson and the running game down first. If that happens, the sacks will come. If it doesn't, the questions will continue.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) at Chicago Bears (1-1) 1 p.m. ET

Brian Griese against Kyle Orton isn't exactly Peyton Manning against Tom Brady. Throw in the presence of two good defenses and it's likely this won't be a shootout.

The Bucs need to start establishing an identity on offense if they're going to contend for the playoffs. With Joey Galloway likely to sit out because of injury, that's not going to be easy. The running game, featuring Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn, has looked good at times and that's a start.

But Jon Gruden's offense needs big plays from the passing game and someone has to step up. Two reclamation projects likely will get that chance. Antonio Bryant, who was out of football last season, has been starting opposite Galloway. Bryant had a great preseason, but has been quiet in the first two games. Without Galloway, he might become the No. 1 option in the passing game.

The other alternative is Michael Clayton. He's spent the last couple of years in Gruden's doghouse. But it's hard to erase the memories of what Clayton did as a rookie. Keep in mind, Griese was his quarterback that year.

New Orleans Saints (1-1) at Denver Broncos (2-0), 4:05 p.m. ET

I'm discovering that Saints' fans are a lot like Red Sox fans. New Orleans lost a game last week and a lot of fans went straight to the ledge. Given the team's history, that's understandable.

But you don't write off a team in Week 3 even if it has to go into Denver and face what suddenly has become an offensive machine. On paper, the Saints have the offensive horses to get into a shootout.

After last week's loss to the Redskins, there's been a lot of talk about how New Orleans' defense is right back where it was last year. But the Saints put an awful lot of effort (see Jonathan Vilma, Sedrick Ellis, etc.) into sprucing up their defense in the offseason. We're about to see if that makes a difference or not.

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