Top Offensive Rookie?

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DALTON
NEWTON

Wins matter more than anything

Fox By Ashley Fox
ESPN.com
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It is the only statistic that ultimately matters. Andy Dalton has it, and Cam Newton doesn't: wins. Dalton has seven. Newton has three.

For me, that closes the case. If the voting were today, Dalton would be my pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year because he has been able to lead the Cincinnati Bengals to a 7-4 record. Newton has been remarkable, with those two 400-yard passing games out of the gate, his 3,093 passing yards and his sick playmaking ability, but he has won only three games. Carolina is playing for pride, while Cincinnati is pushing toward the playoffs.

In the NFL, quarterbacks get way too much credit for wins and way too much blame for losses. That is just how it is, even though this is a team sport.

But who could have imagined in August that Dalton, a second-round pick out of TCU, would step in as the starting quarterback of the Bengals, with zero offseason, and have them a game behind Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the AFC North with five to play? This is a franchise so historically dysfunctional that Carson Palmer decided he would rather stay home in California than play for it anymore.

Dalton wanted to play from jump, and he has. He has been poised, confident and steady. He is a diligent worker who constantly watches tape. And although his numbers have not been as off-the-chart as Newton's, Dalton has been solid, completing 60.1 percent of his passes for 2,509 yards, with 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Dalton has not panicked when faced with adversity. Sunday against Cleveland, the Bengals trailed 17-7 at halftime. Dalton led them back. On the winning drive, he lofted a perfect pass to fellow rookie A.J. Green where only Green could get it and make a play to the Browns' 2-yard line.

It was the Bengals' third comeback when trailing by at least 10 points at halftime this season, tying an NFL record. Cincinnati almost had another one against Baltimore a week earlier, when Dalton rallied the Bengals from a 31-14 deficit with 10 straight points before falling short.

After that game, John Harbaugh said that the Ravens would have to learn how to deal with Dalton. It was the ultimate compliment. Dalton is going to be a factor, and because of his success this season, he should be the Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Ashley Fox covers the NFL for ESPN.com.

Record-shattering pace says it all

Clayton By John Clayton
ESPN.com
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Andy Dalton could lead the Cincinnati Bengals into the playoffs as the last wild card, which would make him a strong Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate, but my vote stays with Cam Newton.

I don't think it's close.

I've seen three of Dalton's games, and he's a major talent. Despite the Panthers' 3-8 record, Newton's play borders on spectacular. As long as he stays healthy, he's going to shatter the rookie record book for quarterbacks.

Newton is on pace for close to 4,500 passing yards, 348 completions and a combination of 32 rushing and passing touchdowns. Sure, these may seem like meaningless stats for a 3-8 team, but I marvel at not only his play but also his improvement each week.

Dalton plays like a veteran quarterback. Newton has the look of a superstar. Cincinnati and Carolina were among the worst teams in football last season. Dalton's contributions have helped the Bengals to a 7-4 record. But Dalton has a better supporting cast than Newton.

The Bengals have the fifth-ranked defense in football. The Panthers are 24th. The Bengals give up 19.5 points a game. The Panthers give up 27.7, and in most games, they can't stop the run.

Newton goes into every game needing 28 points to have a chance to win. His three wins have come in games in which opponents were held to 20 points or fewer. Dalton has had eight games in which the opponent scored 20 or fewer points.

Perhaps the most telling stat for the two is how well Newton succeeds when he's in control of the situation. He's tied for fifth in the league with 21 10-play drives, putting him in a class with Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger. Dalton is a respectable 22nd with 15 10-play drives.

Each team has landed its franchise quarterback. Dalton is a winner in Cincinnati. Newton will be a winner once Ron Rivera fixes the Panthers' defense and the front office adds another receiver opposite Steve Smith.

Like Dalton, Newton has a no-nonsense approach to the game. He works hard, something that a lot of NFL teams didn't realize. The Panthers checked out his work ethic at Auburn and found it to be outstanding. Once he got into the league, they found it better than the scouting reports.

Dalton may get the first jump by getting to the playoffs. It won't be too long before Newton will be challenging for similar spots in the NFC.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.