The Saints are the big surprise in the lead entering Week 11.
The run defense numbers still look bad, but that’s because of major damage done earlier in the season, mostly from the games against the Titans, Jets and Rams. Things have dramatically changed with the simple acquisition of tackle Marcell Dareus in a trade with Buffalo. Jacksonville gave up 139 yards per game rushing on average before he arrived for Week 9. Since then, it’s been 116 total allowed in two games.
Dareus provided a big boost and more refreshment to the interior rotation to play better off ends Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue. The depth is improved, providing more help for the second level to clean up. Going position-by-position, it’s now hard to find a real hole in Jacksonvile’s defense.
Even now, he says his longtime preference for Nike on the court also went into his decision to pick Kentucky over rival Louisville. Fox signed with Nike this spring, becoming the first rookie to finalize a traditional deal. According to industry sources, Fox’s deal is for five years, worth roughly $2 million per year.
They’re the hottest team in the league but are up only a half-game on the Panthers thanks to their win in Carolina in Week 3. The Falcons, still far from hungover as the reigning NFC champions, are only two games behind.
The three South rivals all enjoyed blowout wins against other playoff contenders in Week 10, with an average margin of victory of 27 points. That sets up for an epic finish to the division race, even with New Orleans sitting pretty. Neither Carolina nor Atlanta, the previous two division champs who went all the way to the Super Bowl, can be ruled out.
However, despite the previous bluster between the two players — or more accurately between Fox and Ball’s father — Fox has chosen to downplay any comparisons between his traditional role at Nike and Ball’s unique route, signing with a family brand where his 16-year-old brother already has a signature shoe.