NFL: NFC South tough to beat at home
By Charles Odum
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. ó Atlanta linebacker Keith Brooking sneered at the question:
Is the surprising success of the Falcons and the NFC South the result of playing teams from the lowly AFC West and NFC North? If not, what explains the teams’ combined 22-2 home record, easily the best in the NFL?
“I just think this division as a whole is the toughest division in the league,” said Brooking, in his 11th year with the Falcons. “You look at the records and that pretty much indicates that. I think people are starting to realize that right now.”
The NFC South is one of three divisions without a losing team. The other two are the NFC East, in which teams are 18-7 at home; and the AFC East, where teams are only 15-11 at home.
One year ago, Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa Bay combined for a 14-18 home record, and only the Buccaneers made the playoffs.
What a turnaround. As of this week, Tampa Bay (9-3), Carolina (9-3) and Atlanta (8-4) would make the playoff cut. New Orleans is 6-6.
Falcons center Todd McClure can’t explain the turnaround, but said teams in the division are “really competitive” this season.
“There’s no gimme in this division,” he said. “No matter what team you play in this division, they’re all capable of beating each other.”
And beating up on some of the league’s worst teams.
The division is undefeated against such struggling teams as Kansas City (2-10) and Oakland (3-9) from the AFC West and Detroit (0-12) from the NFC North.
“Man, you can’t read too much into that,” Brooking insisted.
Brooking may have a point.
The division is 4-0 against a more competitive Green Bay team that is 5-3 against the rest of the league. The NFC South is also 3-0 against the Chicago Bears, who are 6-3 against the rest of the league and still have a game left against the Saints.
And it’s not as if home teams are winning everywhere in the NFL. Home teams were only 2-10 on Sunday.
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