Grits, Gravy, and Gumbo: NFC South News for Saturday, October 20th, 2012

Introducing GGAG

Welcome to this inaugural edition of Grits, Gravy, and Gumbo (sure to be affectionately known around these parts by the giggle-worthy acronym GGAG), your source for daily links to NFC South news.

Normally we start off BBAO, our NFC North morning links feature, with interesting factoids from history and famous celebrity birthdays, but I will leave it to our NFC South readership to determine how we will color the GGAG introduction. If you have any suggestions — or better yet, if you would like to take over as author of the daily GGAG column — by all means drop me a line at .

Until then, may I present you with . . .

It’s not everyday that a player goes from one team to another within the same division, but Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive guard Carl Nicks will be facing his old team, the New Orleans Saints, in Week 7.

NFC South News

Oh, my, these links are gritty!

New Orleans Saints

The exploded yesterday with rumors that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had recused himself from hearing the appeals of four current and former New Orleans Saints players who were suspended in conjunction with the Bountygate scandal. Today Judy Battista of the New York Times confirms that indeed, it will be former commissioner of linebackers Scott Fujita and Jonathan Vilma and defensive ends Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith.

It will be most interesting to see how this decision affects the current lawsuits by the NFL Players Association against the league, which contend that Goodell does not have the authority to act unilaterally. In any case, if Tagliabue does end up ruling against the players, will the NFL still win the public relations battle, or will the players be more convinced than ever that the system is fixed against them?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Living up to their name, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pirated offensive guard Carl Nicks from division rival New Orleans Saints this offseason. The Saints were embroiled in a protracted negotiation with quarterback Drew Brees and simply did not have the financial flexibility to retain Nicks’ services.

This week, Nicks has a chance to go up against his old team in Tampa Bay, although he insists . As he puts it, he has a “lot of memories, a lot of them good, real good” with the Saints. “We won a Super Bowl together, set records together.” It’s doubtful he is too worried about protecting his quarterback, Josh Freeman, against a defensive unit that has only recorded 11 sacks this season. Keeping Freeman upright will go a long way toward restoring the fortunes of the Bucs and returning them to the playoffs.

With his defense likely surrendering more points than usual this weekend, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton may find himself shouldering an even greater share of the burden.

Carolina Panthers

As they square off against the Dallas Cowboys this week, the Carolina Panthers will be without starting cornerback Chris Gamble, who is recovering from a shoulder injury that may cost him the rest of the season.

The loss of Gamble, who leads the team in interceptions and has recorded the second-most tackles in franchise history, represents a significant blow as they prepare for the frequently erratic but statistically productive quarterback Tony Romo. Only Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha allowed fewer completions per snap than Gamble last year. Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Thomas will take over for Gamble, depending on the package.

With the Panthers also being banged up in the linebacking corps, Romo might have a field day on Sunday — provided his wide receivers can figure out how to hold onto the ball, of course.

Atlanta Falcons

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of NFL teams who would give anything to trade spots with the Atlanta Falcons – — right now. Nevertheless, they certainly look like one of the most vulnerable 6-0 teams we’ve seen in a while.

As quarterback Matt Ryan pointed out to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Falcons have done just enough to win the past six weeks, but they haven’t exactly dominated anyone. They were barely able to squeak by the Oakland Raiders in Week 5, winning 23-20. Atlhough they do have the inside track to home-field advantage throughout the playoffs in the NFC, it’s doubtful there are too many teams feeling intimidated right now. Until they find a way to start putting opponents away, they simply look like the 2010 Falcons who finished 13-3 but lost in the Divisional Round to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers.

About the author

Rourke Douglas Decker covers the Green Bay Packers beat for the Water Cooler Sports Network. He resides with his family in La Crosse, Wisconsin. He can be reached for questions or comments at .