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Friday, December 3, 2010
Final Word: NFC South

By Pat Yasinskas

NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 13.

Michael Spurlock
The Falcons have reconfigured their special teams coverage after Micheal Spurlock returned the ball for 209 yards in their previous match.
Point of no returns. The last time Tampa Bay and Atlanta got together (earlier this season in the Georgia Dome) Micheal Spurlock almost single-handedly knocked off the Falcons with a few huge kickoff and punt returns. I wouldn’t look for that to happen again. Mike Smith and his coaching staff sat down after that one and made some major changes to their coverage units. They switched where some guys line up and they also brought a couple of starters, most notably defensive end Kroy Biermann, onto the coverage units. Since then, the Falcons haven’t been giving up much in the way of returns.

Storm brewing. I just looked at the weather forecast for Cincinnati on Sunday and it’s not very pretty. The Saints are a much better team than the Bengals. But with the temperature near freezing and the possibility of snow, this could be a very tough game for New Orleans. They’re a team built for a dome, or at least good weather. Sean Payton may have to change his game plan and run Chris Ivory and Reggie Bush more than usual, and it would be nice if Bush did a better job of holding onto the ball than he did in Dallas on Thanksgiving.

Turnover-free zone. We’ve already talked several times about how the Falcons have gone four straight games without a turnover. But we’re going to do it again now because this is significant. If Atlanta can go without a turnover against the Bucs, the Falcons will become the first team since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 to go five consecutive games without turning the ball over. If they do that, I think chances are pretty good they’ll also extend their winning streak to six games and get their 10th victory of the season.

Safety dance. Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris has been a little coy about his plans at safety after Cody Grimm's season ended when broke his left ankle. We may see some of Corey Lynch back there. He’s mainly been a special-teams guy but has been working in this defensive system in practice all year. I also think you might see cornerback Ronde Barber get some time at safety -- or maybe even some sort of hybrid position. What I’m saying is, if I’m Morris, I’m putting Aqib Talib on Roddy White all day. That’s strength against strength. Then, I’m looking at Atlanta’s other receiving weapons -- tight end Tony Gonzalez and receiver Michael Jenkins. I’d take my chances and let E.J. Biggers, Myron Lewis or Elbert Mack handle Jenkins, who is a role player. No matter if you line him up at safety or cornerback, I’d put Barber on Gonzalez and let the two veterans go at it.

An instant classic. Ah, there’s so much to say about this epic matchup between the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks. But we’re limited on space here, so we’ll keep it short. If John Fox really wants to get back at the people who are letting his contract run out, he should go out and win this game and maybe one or two more and cost Carolina the first pick in next year’s draft. That’s about the only thing the Panthers have to shoot for right now.