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Wednesday, December 8, 2010
How I See It: NFC South Stock Watch

By Pat Yasinskas

FALLING

1. John Abraham, Falcons defensive end. Overall, he has bounced back nicely from a rough 2009 season. Abraham has nine sacks and should get back to double digits after having only 5.5 last year. But Abraham wasn’t a factor at all in Sunday’s victory against Tampa Bay. He didn’t even get near quarterback Josh Freeman. When a quote sheet was distributed in the press box after the game with words attributed to Abraham, a sports writer cracked, “Oh, so John Abraham actually was here today?’’ If the Falcons really are going to go deep in the postseason, they need Abraham to show up consistently.

2. Kellen Winslow, Buccaneers tight end. There’s an old saying in the NFL that big players step up in big games. Well, Sunday’s game with Atlanta was the biggest game Tampa Bay has had in several years. Winslow’s probably the biggest individual name on Tampa Bay’s roster. But he produced only three catches for 26 yards.

3. The grass at Raymond James Stadium. The NFL Players Association does an annual survey about the best playing fields in the NFL. Raymond James Stadium has won most years and never has been ranked worse than second. However, you wouldn’t have guessed any of that by looking at the field Sunday. With the University of South Florida playing a game there Saturday night, the field took a beating. When the Bucs and Falcons got going, there was as much dirt and mud showing as grass and some players were having trouble cutting. Might be time to put a little more space between college and NFL games in the stadium.

Donald Penn
Bucs tackle Donald Penn kept Falcons pass-rusher John Abraham at bay Sunday.
RISING

1. Donald Penn, Buccaneers offensive tackle. He was the player largely responsible for Abraham never getting near Freeman. When Penn signed a huge contract in the offseason, a lot of people thought the Bucs had overpaid for a very ordinary left tackle. The reality now is that Penn’s having a season that makes him a legitimate candidate for the Pro Bowl. He easily has been the NFC South’s best tackle this season.

2. Tyson Clabo, Falcons offensive tackle. He plays right tackle, which isn’t the glamour position. But in a contract year, Clabo has been steadily excellent. He’s another player who deserves Pro Bowl consideration.

3. Robert Meachem, Saints wide receiver. In Sunday’s victory against Cincinnati, he caught only three passes, but they went for 106 yards. That’s 35.3 yards per reception. Meachem’s day was highlighted by a 52-yard touchdown. He has become a true deep threat for the Saints and probably should start getting a few more passes thrown his way.