Carolina Panthers

Thursday night’s Panthers game will go a long way to help clear up the NFC South picture

Carolina Panthers (3-4-1)

The good: WR Kelvin Benjamin is an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate and Cam Newton’s injuries helped him become a better pocket passer.

The bad: The areas where the Panthers skimped during the offseason – offensive tackle and the secondary – have been liabilities, and the pass rush disappeared when Greg Hardy did.

New Orleans Saints (3-4)

The good: Drew Brees has an electric deep threat in rookie WR Brandin Cooks and the Saints have five home games remaining, although three are against 2013 playoff teams.

The bad: The Saints haven’t won a road game since last November and their defense – despite a better showing vs. Green Bay – isn’t forcing enough turnovers and is still prone to breakdowns.

Atlanta Falcons (2-6)

The good: WR Julio Jones has bounced back well from his season-ending foot injury from 2013, although his drop was part of the Falcons’ second-half meltdown vs. Detroit in London.

The bad: All those picks Atlanta traded to draft Jones are coming back to haunt the Falcons, especially their offensive line and a porous defense that allows 409 yards and 28 points a game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-6)

The good: It’s hard to find any positives in the Bucs’ dumpster fire of a season, but at least Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy will be around for the rebuilding process after re-upping this week.

The bad: Lovie Smith’s defense is the only one worse than Atlanta’s, prompting the Bucs to hold a fire sale at the trade deadline.

Joe Person