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NFC South notebook: Buccaneers advance, Calvin Ridley rumors heat up

The biggest NFC South headlines from SB Nation blogs

NFL: NFC Wild Card Playoffs-Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s take a look around the NFC South and check out the latest SB Nation news and notes revolving around each team, starting with our Carolina Panthers.

Carolina Panthers

In the rush to replace former offensive coordinator Joe Brady, Matt Rhule’s search process doesn’t appear to be going swimmingly. That comes afterJay Glazer said on Fox NFL Sunday, “Matt Rhule has to hire a rock star offensive coordinator for him to actually save his job.”

The latest coach connected to the search is former Vikings offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak, who Minnesota fans seem happy to send off. The rest of the list contains unproven assistants or longtime coaches lacking sustained success.

Only one candidate, Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell, is currently or recently associated with a successful team.

Meanwhile, SB Nation’s James Dator wrote a scathing piece on Matt Rhule, arguing that the coach is “drowning the Panthers with his incompetence.” Here’s what Dator hits readers with in his introductory paragraph:

It’s gotten to the point where it’s difficult to find a team with more dysfunction than Carolina, outside of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Most of the time it’s unfair to focus this all down on one individual, but it’s become abundantly clear that Matt Rhule is completely destroying the team he’s supposed to be coaching to victory, and damaging the organization far beyond anything most coaches are capable of.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers advanced past the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday during Super Wild Card weekend. The Bucs defense shut out the Eagles until the fourth quarter, en route to a 31-15 win. Quarterback Tom Brady helped build up a 31-0 lead heading into the final quarter following Mike Evans’ 36-yard touchdown.

However, the Bucs lost All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs to an ankle injury on the opening possession. In Wirf’s absence, Brady was sacked four times, but the offense went heavy on the ground and incorporated the league’s quickest passes of the season, getting rid of the ball in 2.17 seconds per throw — Brady’s fastest since 2016, the year NFL Next Gen Stats began tracking the metric.

The Bucs will host the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Rams or the Arizona Cardinals in the divisional round depending on the outcome of the other two wild card games in the NFC. The Bucs will host the highest remaining seed of the trio, and the Packers will host the lowest remaining seed.

Atlanta Falcons

Over in Atlanta the rumor mill is heating up around stud wide receiver Calvin Ridley and his future with the team. The receiver stepped away from the Falcons and football in October, releasing a statement saying he needed to “focus on his mental wellbeing.” Fans and media have not seen or heard from him since.

Both Steve Wyche and NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo have implied that both the Falcons and the former Alabama pass catcher may be looking at a potential exit.

As the Falcoholic wrote, “Wyche and Garafolo are not exactly in the business of making things up and winging it. If they both feel there’s a possibility of a trade, there probably is.”

Meanwhile, second-year cornerback A.J. Terrell was named second team All-Pro, as was long snapper Josh Harris.

And, a USA Today Mock draft sent a Notre Dame safety to the Falcons with the No. 8 overall pick.

New Orleans Saints

Where is the New Orleans Saints franchise headed with the quarterback position not entirely settled? Is Taysom Hill the guy or do they take a look at the draft class? Injured 2021 starter Jameis Winston is a free agent and was mildly effective at best while under center. It seems that the Saints have some big decisions to make about how they want their team to look.

That roster uncertainty is something that Canal Street Chronicles addressed this week. And in a recent mock draft, at least one media outlet does have the Saints grabbing an exciting young gunslinger who played his college ball a five hour drive north of New Orleans.

Meanwhile, undrafted free agent special teams ace J.T. Gray made first team All-Pro, while linebacker Demario Davis landed on second team All-Pro. Social media reacted to the end of the Saints’ 2021 season and writers debated whether coach Sean Payton would earn Coach of the Year.