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NFC South Q&A: Where does Cam Newton rank among division QBs?

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has made more than his share of dynamic -- and sometimes unbelievable -- plays since entering the league as the top pick of the 2011 NFL draft.

He’s as polarizing as any player in the league, whether it’s with his running, throwing, dancing or fashion.

Today's question: What’s the best performance Newton has had against your team, and where would you rank him among NFC South quarterbacks?

Jenna Laine, Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter: It’s hard to choose just one career game for Newton against the Bucs because he has had several, much to the chagrin of Bucs fans. In his rookie season, Newton set the single-season rushing-touchdown record when he rushed for three TDs and threw for another in a 38-19 win over the Bucs in Week 13. In Week 16 that year, he threw for three touchdowns and rushed for a fourth in a 48-16 rout of the Bucs to set the NFL rookie passing record. In 2015, he threw for two touchdowns and rushed for two more to win 38-10. Ranking Newton is tricky because he had such a down year in 2016 -- he had three straight games with a completion percentage under 50 percent. Even without some of his weapons and burdened by an ailing secondary, that’s not good enough. Because of that down year, I’d put him third in the division, behind Matt Ryan and Drew Brees and ahead of Jameis Winston. But that could quickly change, especially with new weapons such as Curtis Samuel and Christian McCaffrey on offense.

Vaughn McClure, Atlanta Falcons reporter: Newton posted a career single-game high 153.3 passer rating in a 38-0 win over the Falcons on Dec. 13, 2015. In that game, Newton completed 15 of 21 passes for 265 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions while sitting out the entire fourth quarter. Newton went on to win the MVP and lead his team to the Super Bowl that season. His play, however, has declined since then as he has been tossed around like a rag doll while absorbing vicious hits. So where does Newton rank among quarterbacks in the division? I’d say third right now behind reigning MVP Ryan and Brees, with Winston gaining momentum. Newton posted a passer rating of 75.8 last season, which was 28th in the league and well behind Ryan’s league-leading 117.1, and also trailed both Brees (101.7) and Winston (86.1). But Newton could enjoy a bounce-back year, provided he stays healthy, gets good protection and utilizes the new weapons at his disposal, including first-round draft pick McCaffrey.

Mike Triplett, New Orleans Saints reporter: Unfortunately for the Saints, there have been a few worthy candidates for this honor -- especially in recent years, with Newton throwing for at least 315 yards in three of their past four meetings. But it’s hard to top his 331-yard, five-TD performance in a 41-38 win at New Orleans in Week 13 of 2015, which lifted the Panthers' record to 12-0 en route to the Super Bowl. With that game still fresh in his memory last summer, Saints coach Sean Payton said Newton is "obviously" a Tier 1 quarterback, "and anyone [in the media] that were to vote otherwise should probably cover a different sport." Alas, Newton’s biggest weakness has always been his consistency, as he showed with his disappointing 2016 season. He has had some real stinkers against the Saints over the years, too. And the game that will always stand out most to me is the one in which he was at both his worst and best: Week 16 of the 2013 season, with the NFC South title on the line at Carolina. Newton had completed just 10 passes with no touchdowns and an interception in the first 59 minutes, and the Panthers trailed 13-10 after they failed to convert a third down all day. But then Newton completed passes of 37, 14 and 14 yards for a stunning game-winning touchdown drive that lasted just 32 seconds. I'd rank Newton third among NFC South quarterbacks right now because Brees and Ryan are coming off much better seasons. But when Newton is on like he was in 2015, he obviously has the potential to top them both.