In an effort to decide which team will win the NFC South in 2013, I’ve decided to rank the four players in the division at each of the 11 positions on offense, 11 on defense, punter, place kicker, and one specialist. Each team will have one representative at each position and will be given points based on where their player lands in relation to the others who play the same position in the division. The best player in the division will receive four points while the worst will receive just one. We will then tally the points up, and come up with the a ranking of the four teams in the NFC South.
We start today at the most important position on the football field, the quarterback.
In a close battle for the top spot with Matt Ryan, I’ve given the nod to Brees. The main reason for this is experience. Brees has won a Super Bowl and has had five seasons in which he’s led a team to the postseason. Brees’ numbers are almost unimaginable since joining the Saints and you have to expect him to reproduce them yet again this year with his pal Sean Peyton back on the sideline. The final tipping point that led me to select Brees over Ryan was the supporting cast. If Brees had Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez to throw to, his numbers would be even better than they have been. Can’t say the same for Ryan if he were playing with New Orleans’ players.
As mentioned above, Ryan was an incredibly close second only to be separated by a hypothetical team swap. Ryan has a chance to take a run at the top spot if he can once again lead his Falcons to the NFC South title and then build on it with multiple postseason wins. With White, Jones, and Gonzalez all returning, one would have to expect to see gaudy numbers again this season from #2. Ryan would probably be the top QB in many divisions, but while Brees is still here, he’s got work to do to garner that honor in this one.
There is a major drop off between the top two and the bottom two quarterbacks in the NFC South. Newton has tools that no other quarterback in the league has with the combination of his size and speed, but his accuracy and his mind are what are keeping him from the upper echelon of quarterbacks. Newton is deadly when he runs the ball, but when team sit back and force him to beat them through the air, he tends to struggle. In the five games in which Newton was held to 20 or fewer rushing yards, the Panthers lost all but one of those games. The book is out on Newton, he needs to find a way to challenge it by beating more teams exclusively with his arm. If he can do that, it will open up running lanes and the Panthers could be really scary. But until then, he’s third out of four in the division.
#4 – Josh Freeman – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 1 point
Yeah, not even the home site for the Buccaneers can get their own quarterback out of the cellar in the division. But there’s really no room to argue here based on body of work (which means his overall statistical output, not his physical body, because then he’d be much higher). Freeman has shown flashes of brilliance but he’s been far too inconsistent with mid to short-range throws. Freeman is entering a contract year and all signs seem to be pointing in the direction of a big year, but the ceiling is probably only one spot up because he’s got a long way to go before reaching Brees or Ryan’s levels.
The rankings are now complete. Be sure to check out the NFC South Position Rankings roundup to see point totals and observations based on the rankings.