NFC South MVPs

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

To go along with our package on MVPs, I chose one for each of the NFC South's teams. New Orleans and Atlanta were easy. Carolina and Tampa Bay, the top teams in the division, were a little harder. In each case, I went with the guy who I think has meant the most to his team.

Atlanta Falcons, RB Michael Turner:
Matt Ryan deserves heavy consideration. He's been the best rookie quarterback since Dan Marino. But none of that would have been possible without Turner.

He has given the Falcons a consistently good running game and has put up better numbers than LaDainian Tomlinson, the guy he spent four years backing up in San Diego. That's taken the pressure off Ryan and kept the defense fresh. Without Turner, the Falcons wouldn't be anywhere close to the playoff picture.

Carolina Panthers, LB Jon Beason:
You can make cases for Steve Smith, Julius Peppers and DeAngelo Williams and none of them would be wrong.

But I'm going off the beaten path here. Carolina is in the spot it is in mainly because of its defense.

Peppers is having a very good year, but I'm going with Beason.

The logic is that game in and game out, he's the best player on a very good defense.

New Orleans Saints, QB Drew Brees:
This one is easy. On a team that has a lot of players who are underachieving, Brees is overachieving.

He's putting up huge numbers and, aside from Lance Moore, he's been the only consistent bright spot on this team.

Much has been made that Brees' numbers are inflated and not that important because the team's record isn't that great.

But what would that record be without Brees?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, LB Barrett Ruud:
I was tempted to go with receiver Antonio Bryant, who is having a phenomenal year after being out of the NFL last season. But, much like the Panthers, the Bucs are winning because of their defense. No one is more important to that defense than Ruud. With Derrick Brooks, Kevin Carter and Ronde Barber nearing the ends of their careers, Ruud has stepped up as the best player on this defense and has made the changing of the guard a very smooth process.