How I See It: NFC South Stock Watch

September, 29, 2010
9/29/10
8:44
AM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Marques Colston, wide receiver, Saints. The guy who is supposed to be New Orleans’ best wide receiver and maybe even the best receiver in the NFC South had just four catches for a very inconsequential 25 yards Sunday. Colston has yet to catch a touchdown pass this season. With his mediocre start and the quarterback struggles in Carolina taking a toll on Steve Smith, it’s become abundantly clear that Atlanta’s Roddy White is the best wide receiver in the division.

Garrett Hartley
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesThe Saints brought in some competition for Garrett Hartley after he missed a 29-yard field goal in overtime against Atlanta.
2. New Orleans’ defense. When it’s not forcing turnovers, this unit is rather ordinary. The first three games have shown teams can run the ball on the Saints and teams are going to continue to do that. Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams are two strong personalities. They co-existed when the defense was making turnovers and the Saints were winning big last year. But a few more losses could really put this relationship to the test.

3. Garrett Hartley, kicker, Saints. It appears as if the Saints are going to hang onto Hartley even though they’re bringing in veteran John Carney. The Saints aren’t completely ready to give up on a talented young kicker who has made some big kicks in his career. But his miss of a 29-yard field goal in overtime cost the Saints a victory Sunday. They can’t afford to carry two kickers for too long, so Hartley better figure out what’s causing his inconsistency and fix it quickly.

RISING

1. Matt Ryan, quarterback, Falcons. People like to debate if Ryan’s an “elite’’ quarterback or not. I’m not sure what the exact qualifications for that are. But, if going into an extremely hostile environment and playing a nearly flawless game against the defending Super Bowl champions is on the list, then I’d lean toward calling Ryan an elite quarterback.

2. Atlanta’s pass rush. The numbers still aren’t dominant. But the Falcons are generating pressure. They didn’t make any dramatic moves in the offseason because they said they believed in what they had. Turns out, they were right. John Abraham's bouncing back, Kroy Biermann is on the rise, Jonathan Babineaux is one of the better interior pass-rushers in the league and the much-maligned Jamaal Anderson put enough pressure on Drew Brees to force a huge interception Sunday.

3. Lance Moore, wide receiver, Saints. You don’t replace all that Reggie Bush does with a single player. But Moore took on Bush’s role as punt returner and spent some time at slot receiver Sunday. Moore was quieted by injuries much of last year. But he’s an athlete and a playmaker and he’s going to get a chance to showcase those abilities while Bush is out.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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