Atlanta Falcons: It might be tough sledding on the ground against the Washington Redskins for an Atlanta team that has lost two starting offensive linemen for the season in right guard Brandon Fusco (ankle) and left guard Andy Levitre (triceps) and remains without its top running back in Devonta Freeman (groin). Washington ranks second in the NFL in rushing defense (80.1 yards per game) while the Falcons are just 30th in rushing offense (83.3). "So just because they're good at (defending) the run, doesn't mean we can't try," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. "We're going to run the ball, knowing that's an important part of what we do as well. They just happen to be one of the very best at defending it. That doesn't mean that we don't go down that road."
Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton is being mentioned as an MVP candidate after throwing 13 touchdown passes against four interceptions while guiding the team to a 5-2 start. Newton, who was the NFL MVP in 2015, is completing a career-high 66.4 percent of his throws. But Panthers coach Ron Rivera isn't ready to say his star quarterback is back in his 2015 form -- a season in which Carolina reached the Super Bowl. "The proof will be in the pudding when we get to the end of the year," Rivera said. "We'll see. He is playing well, and I think we are playing well as a unit."
New Orleans Saints: Quarterback Drew Brees is the NFL's all-time leader in career passing yardage (72,435) but he has never won the MVP award during his stellar career. Brees finished second three times (2006, 2009, 2011) and is back in the conversation this season due to his stellar campaign and the Saints' 6-1 start. This Sunday's showdown with the Los Angeles Rams could play a part in how the MVP race plays out as unbeaten Los Angeles has two candidates in running back Todd Gurley and quarterback Jared Goff. Brees is completing a stunning 77.4 percent of his throws for 1,990 yards and 14 touchdowns against only one interception.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The benching of quarterback Jameis Winston (10 interceptions in four games) is making the seat hotter for third-year coach Dirk Koetter. A big reason why Koetter ascended to the head-coaching position was his work with Winston as the offensive coordinator. Veteran right tackle Demar Dotson is among the players that can see the big picture with the team sitting at 3-4. "It's his third year. He's got to prove that he should continue to coach," Dotson told reporters. "I love Dirk ... but if we don't win for Dirk, he'll probably be without a job." Ryan Fitzpatrick is back as the starting quarterback and the Bucs are hoping he can produce more "FitzMagic" like he did when he began the campaign by becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to record three straight 400-yard passing games.
--Field Level Media
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