By Danny Cox
CBS Sports NFL analyst Solomon Wilcots took some time to speak on three big games happening in Week 6, and one is the Thursday night match-up between two NFC South rivals in the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. Wilcots also went on to say that the Green Bay Packers truly could run away with a championship this year, but only if they do two specific things.
Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints, CBS Oct. 15 at 8:25p ET
What is wrong with the offense of the New Orleans Saints?
SW: “They are clearly struggling with their offensive line. Year-by-year, they’ve lost really good players via free agency and the offensive line is deteriorating in front of Drew Brees. Now, he’s battling injuries and as QBs get older, they obviously need better protection. New Orleans traded for a center, which I thought was a good move, but that line is just not protecting him.
Many teams do this…they put a lot of money into big contracts for quarterbacks and other parts of the team lose out on talent and in New Orleans, it’s the offensive line. As a quarterback, Brees is one who skirts the edges of the defense and will risk that turnover to get a big play. With inexperience like Brandon Cooks and (Willie) Snead on the outside…those guys are learning, but it’s hard for a quarterback that is getting older. Young guys are learning and they need to protect the ball.”
Is trading away Roddy White really a possibility for the Atlanta Falcons?
SW: “I don’t think it should be. What happens if Julio Jones gets nicked up or scratched? Championship teams always need to keep that one veteran wide receiver who doesn’t need a lot of reps during the week. That’s the guy who is going to make the biggest play for them when they need it.
Old school veteran receivers know how to be there for their quarterbacks when they need to be. Sure, Roddy isn’t putting up monster fantasy numbers right now, but at this time, it’s about substance and style. Big numbers brought them nothing in the past…not a championship. It would be the wrong thing to get rid of Roddy White.”
What is the biggest reason for the hot start of the Falcons this season?
SW: “It starts with the mindset that Dan Quinn has brought in. It’s intensity all week in practice and they bring that to the field on game days. The defense has improved drastically and they’re getting after the point of attack.
Late last season, Mike Smith began to promote that and teach it, but it was too late. The Falcons don’t flinch in certain situations that they would have used to miss out on. Now, they also have two good backs when they didn’t even have one before. Devonta Freeman is good, but Tevin Coleman will challenge him.”
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Buffalo Bills, CBS Oct. 18th at 1p ET
Is it too early to consider the Bengals the favorite in the AFC North?
SW: “Yes, and only reason why is because it’s the AFC North. The Bengals have the most talented roster in the NFL and I’ve said it for years. Last season, they dealt with numerous injuries to Marvin Jones, A.J. Green, Geno Atkins, Andre Smith, but they still got 10 wins and into the playoffs. That shows serious depth.
The division has Pittsburgh and Baltimore, who are dangerous, nasty, and smart. The Steelers are good enough and smart enough under Mike Tomlin to hold on until Ben (Roethlisberger) returns. The Bengals are racking up great wins now, but it’s early. They will have to play everyone in the division at least one more time and the AFC North is ugly, so it’s never really a runaway at all.”
How has Rex Ryan changed the overall demeanor of the Buffalo Bills?
SW: “Rex has given them hope and he’s given them some swagger. There is more style than substance while trying to get the substance to try and measure up to the style.
As good as they looked in Week 1, I think they can play much better than they are. There is a lot of talent on both the offensive and defensive lines. Greg Roman’s new system is only five games old and they have a quarterback who is still new in it. With their running backs…Shady (LeSean) McCoy…they’ve got a good running game, but they’re not great at pass protection.
It’s about discipline. In three wins, they’ve averaged seven penalties to 71 yards. In the two losses, they’ve averaged around 13-15 penalties for around 150 yards. Simple enough, when they’re undisciplined, they hurt themselves.”
Green Bay Packers vs. San Diego Chargers, CBS Oct. 18th at 4:25p ET
The Packers defense needs to catch up to the offense…with that, are they the NFC favorite for this year’s Super Bowl?
SW: “Green Bay’s run defense is ranked 30th in the league right now and we know that championship defenses are not made of that. This is no knock on Jordy Nelson, as I love him as a player, but the offense has enough talent with Aaron Rodgers and others to still click…to still work…and they are.
Defensively, the Packers have to do two things: One, they have to be better in run defense, period. Two, they have to produce more takeaways. That is a Dom Capers’ defense. Stop the run time and again and force third and long and then steal the ball away. Get to third and long by slamming the door shut on the run.
If the Packers can do those two things on defense, they don’t just have the opportunity to win a fifth straight division title, but can win the Super Bowl as well.”
San Diego continues to stay at mid-level – Is Philip Rivers the issue?
SW: “Philip Rivers isn’t the problem. If Rivers was taken off of that roster, the San Diego Chargers would be one of the worst teams in the league. He is not their issue, but what’s around him, is. As quarterbacks get older, they can only carry a team so far and the Chargers have got to get better around him. Unfortunately, that window of time is closing on San Diego.
When he moved in as the starter for the Chargers, he had weapons all around him like Darren Sproles and LaDainian Tomlinson and a great offensive line. Over time, good players have left for other teams and now what? His offensive line is better and Melvin Gordon, I really like him, but they have their work cut out for them in building a good team around Rivers.
Right now, Philip Rivers is playing at a higher level than Peyton Manning. The only thing is that Denver has built a better team around Manning with the offense and the defense. John Elway gets that. He understands it. The Chargers need to get it, too.”