Stock Watch: NFC South


Matt Ryan, quarterback, Falcons. Let’s be clear that I’m not bashing the body of work of the guy that probably is the leading candidate for MVP right now. But Ryan didn’t have his best game Sunday. He threw three interceptions. A few more outings lie that and he’ll be out of the MVP conversation.

Atlanta’s run defense. It’s not as good as we thought and that makes it a big potential problem as the season goes on. Oakland rushed for 149 yards and averaged 4.7 yards per carry. On the bright side, defensive tackle Corey Peters is eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list after the bye and his presence should help the run game improve.

Aqib Talib, cornerback, Buccaneers. He let his team down -- again -- with his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. I’m a little surprised that coach Greg Schiano came out and said he expects Talib to return to the team when the suspension ends in early November. I thought there was a chance the Bucs simply would just go ahead and pull the plug on the troubled cornerback. But let’s face the facts. Talib is Tampa Bay’s most physically talented cornerback. The Bucs would have to get by the rest of the season with either a journeyman or a young player in his place. They can’t find someone with Talib’s talent until free agency or the draft. I’m pretty sure that’s when they’ll act and let Talib walk when his contract is up after the season.


John Abraham, defensive end, Falcons. He had three sacks, three tackles for loss and two quarterback hits. The guy is 34, but he has shown he’s still capable of dominating a game. Can he continue doing that? I wonder because I think the Falcons have had Abraham on the field more than they would like. Give him plenty of rest in the bye week and think about ways to limit his snaps just a little going forward. The Falcons need Abraham healthy and fresh for the playoffs.

Ronde Barber, safety, Buccaneers. Speaking of ageless wonders, Barber is 37, but still producing in a big way. He had an interception and returned it 78 yards for a touchdown Sunday. The Bucs brought him back for one more year to help ease the transition with a new coaching staff and a young team. Might be time to start getting in Barber’s ear about sticking around for 2013.

Josh Freeman, quarterback, Buccaneers. On Sunday, we finally got the chance to see what Tampa Bay’s offense really is supposed to look like. It’s supposed to balance the running game with some shots downfield in the passing game. Freeman connected on those shots and it should serve as a reminder that the Bucs need balance in their offense.