Massive NFC South Saturday mailbag

Hank in Bozeman, Mont., writes: I think you do an awesome job with this blog and I respect your opinion. I also understand Roddy White is an awesome receiver, and he probably deserves more league wide recognition as you say. But if you were starting a team from scratch, would you rather have Roddy White or Drew Brees? You'd be crazy not to take Brees.

Pat Yasinskas: Indeed. In that setting that you describe, I'd absolutely take Brees. He's an elite quarterback and that's the way I'd like to start building a team. But I was just saying that through the first four games of this season, I'd give White the nod as the MVP award in the NFC South.

Ryan in Wilmington, N.C., writes: In your Final Word, you talk about the Julius Peppers vs Jordan Gross matchup. Peppers has been given freedom to play either side of the field, so why would he choose to go up against Gross, when he could get the right side no-names that have been letting people through all year? Not gonna happen.

Pat Yasinskas: You are correct, sir. I went back and adjusted what I wrote a little bit. Peppers does have the freedom to line up wherever he wants and I’m sure right tackle Geoff Schwartz will be a frequent target. But I also think we’ll see some of Peppers versus Gross. Part of the reason the Bears let Peppers move is the element of surprise and it makes sense that Peppers and the Bears would want to come after rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen at least some of the time.

Todd in Chattanooga, Tenn., writes: I haven't heard anything about Josh Freeman's thumb in a week or so; is he back to 100% now thanks to the bye week or is there still any lingering pain, etc.?

Pat Yasinskas: All indications I have are that Freeman is at least close to 100 percent. He said the medical staff told him he’d probably still experience some soreness up until the bye. In that regard, the bye came at a good time. Have not heard of any setbacks, so he should be fine.

William in Atlanta writes: Since a lot of the Saints fans keep saying how the Falcons are a few fluke plays away from 1-3 record can you please point out to them that the Saints could very well be 1-3 as well if the San Francisco and Carolina games had gone just a little differently. Maybe they should look at their own team before trying to put down the Falcons.

Pat Yasinskas: William, I’ll let you be the one to say it to Saints fans. This rivalry is growing hot and I’m anxious for the second meeting of the season in the Georgia Dome.

Sam in Raleigh writes: I got this idea from your post in the chat about Roddy White currently being the MVP of the NFC South and it got me thinking at the end of the year it would be cool if you did a blog post on Rookies of the Year, MVP, and defensive/offensive players of the year within the division.

Pat Yasinskas: Tell you what, I generally have done something like that in past years at the midway point of the season. We’ll do it again this year in about a month and we’ll do it again after the regular season.

Alex in Kyiv, Ukraine writes: Saw a note on NFL.com that coach Sean Payton was hesitant to put Patrick Robinson, the team's No. 1 pick last year, into the starting lineup despite the injury to Tracy Porter. Is Robinson that not ready to start despite being first-round pick? Is Randall Gay that much better? Or is this just not letting the opponent know who will start?

Pat Yasinskas: Well, if it’s the latter, it wouldn’t be the first time an NFL coach has used a smokescreen. But my honest read is Gay will start and Robinson will be the nickel back. Gay’s a proven veteran and probably could start for a fair amount of teams. Robinson has enormous potential and athletic ability, but he was a very late first-round pick and still needs some seasoning.

Kristen in San Diego, Calif. writes: It sounds like Chad Ochocinco respects Ronde Barber as if he was a Hall of Famer. Why don't you think he will end up in the HOF? Personally, I think he is great.

Pat Yasinskas: I think Barber has been an excellent player for a very long time. I might be proven wrong down the road, but the coaches, players and personnel people I talk to don’t think Barber’s a Hall of Famer. They view him the same way I do, as a guy who has had a very good career in a system that was perfect for him. Besides, I think some Tampa Bay fans need to be a little more realistic in what being a Hall of Famer is really all about and how the system works. To date, the Bucs have one Hall of Famer, Lee Roy Selmon. He’ll be getting some company very soon. Derrick Brooks is a slam dunk the moment he shows up on the ballot. Warren Sapp will get in as well. That’s two guys right there from an era where the team won precisely one championship. They were not the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s and that will come into play when that age of Buccaneers comes up for Hall of Fame consideration. You’re not going to see a crop of five Bucs from that time period go into the Hall of Fame. John Lynch? My guess is he’s got a chance and will probably get in after a period of time. Barber and Mike Alstott are the other two guys that some Tampa Bay fans talk about as potential Hall of Famers. I think they fall into the same category -- guys with very nice careers, but not quite Hall of Famers. Should we throw Simeon Rice into the discussion, too?

Derek in New York writes: Is Sam Baker a bust? Everyone called it a reach when we drafted him. He played a little better during the 49ers game but the guy seems to have some penalty problems.

Pat Yasinskas: I don’t think you can call Baker a bust. It is fair to say he hasn’t emerged as the franchise left tackle the Falcons want protecting Matt Ryan’s blind side and, yes, there have been problems with penalties. But Baker was dealing with some injuries in each of his first two seasons. Let’s see how he progresses over the course of a full season, if he stays healthy. If there’s not improvement, then, yeah, the clock starts ticking on the Falcons replacing him.

Keaton in Myrtle Beach S.C., writes: I have read a few articles claiming that Mike Smith was trying to cover up how bad Sean Weatherspoon's injury was and therefore he wouldn't reveal it or let Weatherspoon speak about it. What do you think, is the injury a lot worse than everyone thought?

Pat Yasinskas: We have rules here against criticizing other media outlets, so let me just say I believe those reports, wherever you saw them, were not completely accurate. Are the Falcons a little guarded about injuries? Absolutely. But so is just about every other team. The Falcons put Weatherspoon on the injury report when they were required to. They sat him out last week and all indications are they think Weatherspoon will play Sunday. He’s practiced fully the last two days. And let me say one more thing about Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff. I’ve been dealing with them for three seasons now and I’ve found both of them to be nothing but honest. Are they going to tell you every little detail about every little injury? No, no one does that. But Smith and Dimitroff do not lie.