Stock Watch: NFC South

December, 11, 2012
12/11/12
8:55
AM ET
FALLING

Jimmy Graham, tight end, Saints. His numbers aren’t terrible, but Graham’s not having the kind of season I expected in his second year as a full-time starter. I thought he’d take a big step forward from last year, but that hasn’t happened. Graham is playing with a wrist injury and dealt with other injuries early in the season. He’s been adequate, but not dominant. He hasn’t caught a touchdown pass in the last three games.

Matt Ryan, quarterback, Falcons. Early in the season, Ryan looked like he was running away with the Most Valuable Player award, but he’s cooled off recently. Don’t be fooled by the fact he threw for 342 yards against Carolina. Almost all of those yards came in the second half. Ryan and the offense couldn’t sustain a drive in the first half and that cost the Falcons the game.

[+] EnlargeThomas Davis
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsPanthers linebacker Thomas Davis (58) celebrates his fourth-quarter interception against Atlanta.
Josh Freeman, quarterback, Buccaneers. He completed just 41.2 percent of his passes against Philadelphia. The week before that, he completed just 46.2 percent of his throws. Freeman never is going to lead the league in completion percentage because the Tampa Bay offense isn’t the type that’s going to let a quarterback complete 70 percent of his passes. But Freeman should be well above 50 percent every week.

RISING

Thomas Davis, linebacker, Panthers. He made a crucial interception against the Falcons and was awarded a game ball. It’s another nice chapter in a great story. Davis has torn his ACL three times, but has returned as an impact player. The Comeback Player of the Year award probably will go to someone at an offensive skill position, but Davis at least belongs in the conversation.

Cam Newton, quarterback, Panthers. Forget the talk about the sophomore slump. After a slow start, Newton has bounced back nicely. He’s played well the last six games and his performance against Atlanta might have been his best yet. He made NFL history, becoming the first player to rush for over 100 yards, pass for over 250 yards and record a rushing and passing touchdown in the same game.

Rob Chudzinski, offensive coordinator, Panthers. He already was working with a make-shift offensive line and running back Jonathan Stewart and receiver Brandon LaFell were out for the Atlanta game. But Chudzinski made the most of what he had and called an excellent game against Atlanta. The long drives in the first half kept Atlanta’s offense off the field and that decided the game.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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