While only one NFC South team played in the wild card round of the playoffs, there were still plenty of storylines generated by the division. Only the Atlanta Falcons avoided NFL headlines, making the decision to stay pat on their general manager and head coach. Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff will both be back next season with the team, most believe owner Arthur Blank made the correct decision. The same cannot be said for the two line coaches, as the Falcons fired both the offensive and defensive line coaches. The Falcons struggled up front on both sides of the ball, making this no real surprise.
Tampa introduced former Bears head man Lovie Smith as their new head coach, making him the third coach in four seasons for the Bucs. Rumors immediately began to surface about which big name coordinators would join him in Tampa, with former Cal-Berkley head coach Jeff Tedford being the first officially announced as offensive coordinator. Rod Marinelli and Leslie Frazier are both being considered for the defensive coordinator.
Carolina got the sit and watch this weekend, getting very important time to rest and heal up from some nagging injuries. With division rival New Orleans winning on Saturday, the Panthers were able to watch Sunday’s Packers and 49ers game with a keen eye, knowing the winner would be their divisional round opponent.
The Saints bucked their own trend of losing on the road in the playoffs, exercising a four game road playoff losing streak in Philadelphia. New Orleans ran the football well, Mark Ingram rushed for close to 100 yards, overcame a few turnovers from Drew Brees and advanced to meet the Seahawks next weekend. New Orleans was trounced in Seattle just over a month ago, however they will be ready and prepared for the 12th man this time around.
The Saints got themselves in rare air with the win in Philadelphia. Marking the first time they have won a road playoff game under Sean Payton. They won despite an average night from Drew Brees and a very quiet night from the league’s best tight end in Jimmy Graham. Rob Ryan’s defense was good, helping to carry the Saints for much of the night.
Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach opening
The Falcons let both the offensive and defensive line coaches go last week, creating two coaching vacancies on the staff. Atlanta asked the Minnesota Vikings for permission to interview their offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, but were denied by the Vikings. Davidson is highly thought of in NFL circles and is said to have an outside shot at the open Vikings job. That said, it is really unfair to Davidson who could be let go as soon as the Vikings tab their next head coach.
The Saints have two key players to watch on the injury wire this week. Pierre Thomas missed the wild card round game with a chest injury, while defensive back Keenan Lewis had to leave the Eagles contest with a head injury. Both are currently listed as questionable for Saturday’s game.
Carolina may be without the services of their top wideout Steve Smith on Sunday. Smith went down with a knee injury in the Week 16 win over New Orleans and is listed as questionable as the week begins.
Tweet of the Weekend
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 2, 2014
What It All Means
New Orleans will try to reverse the outcome this weekend against the Seattle Seahawks in one of the more unpleasant football environments imaginable. Defeated soundly, 34-7 just a month ago, the Saints offense will need to be far better than they were in that matchup. New Orleans ran the ball very well in Philadelphia, hoping to repeat that next weekend if they are to move on to the NFC Championship.
The Panthers enjoyed their bye week from the comfort of their own homes. They will host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, a rematch of a Week 10 game that the Panthers won on the road 10-9. Many still haven’t bought into the Panthers, allowing them a little bit of bulletin board material heading into their first playoff game in five seasons.
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks – Saturday, January 11th @ 3:15pm CST – CenturyLink Stadium
Carolina Panthers vs. San Francisco 49ers – Sunday, January 12th @ 1:00pm EST – Bank of America Stadium
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