How I See It: NFC South Stock Watch

November, 24, 2009
11/24/09
11:04
AM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

Peppers
Peppers
1. Julius Peppers, Panthers defensive end: Although John Fox, who is extremely guarded about injuries, won’t say it, it sure looks and sounds like Peppers is playing with a broken hand. He’s gone through the last two games with his hand heavily wrapped.

He’s been used only in pass-rush situations and he hasn’t been able to get near the quarterback.

2. Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers receiver He finally got back on the field Sunday, but he didn’t do very much. Then, he said in the post-game interview that the Bucs are too conservative with their game plan because they’re playing rookie quarterback Josh Freeman. Of course they are, but the game plan looks more wide open than it did when Byron Leftwich or Josh Johnson were starting.

If you truly want to be a No. 1 receiver and get a long-term contract, this is not how you play or act.

3. Falcons, the entire secondary: This has been a problem spot all season and it only seems to be getting worse. Corners Chris Houston, Tye Hill, Brent Grimes and Chevis Jackson are getting beat on a regular basis. Safeties Erik Coleman and Thomas DeCoud were able to cover for some of the early mistakes, but they haven’t been able to do that lately.

If the Falcons are going to have any shot at the playoffs, they’ve got to find a way to start covering some receivers.

Rising

Meachem
Meachem
1. Robert Meachem, Saints receiver: The third-year receiver suddenly has become a touchdown machine. He had two Sunday against Tampa Bay. Meachem definitely has turned the corner this season and has become a dependable part of the offense after two years of struggling.

Sure, it helps that he’s working with Drew Brees. But Meachem has made his increased role possible with a lot of hard work.

2. Malcolm Jenkins, Saints cornerback: The rookie was pushed into a start Sunday because of injuries to starters Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter. He responded with an interception and made several nice tackles.

The Saints had brought Jenkins along slowly early in the year, but he has shown he can handle some playing time.

3. Matt Ryan, quarterback, Falcons. After struggling for several games, Ryan rallied in the second half of Sunday’s overtime loss to the Giants. He looked like the Ryan of last year -- decisive and accurate.

Although the Falcons ended up losing the game, it was no fault of Ryan’s. If he can keep playing the way he did in the second half, he could help the Falcons end their slump.

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