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NFC South Whispers

LB Anderson excelling for Panthers

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By PFW staff

• One of the few bright spots for the Panthers this season has been the productive play of SLB James Anderson. One longtime team observer said this is the best Anderson has looked in his five-year career. He's among the league leaders in tackles (53), even after being on a bye in Week Six.

• The Saints' defense has had great success at keeping teams out of the endzone this year, but the pass rush still has plenty of room to improve. Some observers say DE Will Smith, who has just one sack in five games, is not playing to his potential. His fellow starting end, Alex Brown, also has just one sack, but he's known more as a run stuffer and has never come close to matching the 13-sack season Smith had in 2009.

• The Bucs are looking for someone to spark their dormant running game, but they have been cautious about using rookie RB LeGarrette Blount. He can be a liability in blitz protection, and Tampa Bay probably isn't going to give him more playing time until he proves he can keep QB Josh Freeman from getting hit if a defense blitzes.

• Falcons head coach Mike Smith usually refrains from criticizing his players in public, but he called out the offensive line after the Week Six loss to the Eagles. It left some wondering whether changes could be in store if QB Matt Ryan doesn't start getting better protection from the front five. OTs Sam Baker and Tyson Clabo appear to be on the hot seat.

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