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Tuesday, November 17, 2009
How I See It: NFC South Stock Watch

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

Matt Ryan, quarterback, Falcons. After an almost flawless rookie season, Ryan has been only ordinary. At times, he’s been worse than ordinary.

Against Carolina on Sunday, he didn’t look poised in the pocket and he threw two interceptions where the ball sailed. With running back Michael Turner banged up and an ordinary defense, the Falcons need Ryan to return to last year’s form if they’re going to have any chance at the playoffs.

Pierre Thomas, running back, Saints. Thomas had established himself as New Orleans’ featured back early in the season. But he was surprisingly quiet against the Rams.

Thomas carried 11 times for 34 yards and didn’t have a rushing touchdown for the first time in three games.

Michael Clayton, receiver, Buccaneers. Even with top receiver Antonio Bryant out, Clayton was limited to one catch for 3 yards. There was lots of talk about how Clayton would thrive with a fresh start after the departure of Jon Gruden.

Truth is, Gruden had judged Clayton pretty well. Clayton has 13 catches for 186 yards on the season and hasn’t found the end zone.

Rising

Steve Smith, receiver, Panthers. After catching only one touchdown pass in the first eight games, Smith found the end zone twice against Miami.

Smith’s numbers were down in the first half of the season with Jake Delhomme struggling. But Delhomme seems to be back on track and that’s good news for Smith.

Reggie Bush, running back, Saints. Call him a role player, but don’t call him a bust. Maybe Bush will never live up to his lofty draft status, but he came through when the Saints needed him most Sunday.

Bush scored two touchdowns against St. Louis and reminded everyone he still can do some good things.

Jason Snelling, running back, Falcons. With Turner and Jerious Norwood banged up, Snelling may have to be Atlanta’s running game for a few weeks. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because Snelling has shown flashes of promise as a backup.

He doesn’t have breakaway speed like Turner and Norwood, but he’s a big, strong runner, and in an increased role he might be able to wear down some defenses.