Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 4/12/12
In 2011, the NFC South sent the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints to the playoffs on the back of strong offensive systems led by quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Drew Brees. However, in the offseason Tampa Bay is trying to bulk up on offense, while second year quarterback Cam Newton is leading Carolina. This article examines each of the four quarterbacks in the division, and predicts who will win the division in 2012.

Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan does not always get the same amount of attention as other NFC South quarterbacks, but Ryan consistently finds ways to lead the Atlanta Falcons to wins. In the 2011 regular season, Ryan posted career highs in passing yards and touchdowns, throwing for 4,177 yards and 29 touchdowns.

Ryan also led Atlanta to a 10-6 record, which was good for the team’s third playoff appearance since drafting Ryan in 2008.
Ryan’s supporting cast of characters, which include running back Michael Turner, Roddy White Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones, are a major help for both Ryan and the Falcons as a whole. Last season, Turner rushed for 1,340 yards and 11 touchdowns, White and Jones combined for 2,255 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Gonzalez recorded 875 yards and seven touchdowns.

Atlanta is also returning receiver Harry Douglas, center Todd McClure, and on defense, John Abraham.

A major focus this season for Atlanta is not only making the playoffs, but also winning in the playoffs. Ryan has failed to win a playoff game in his four seasons with Atlanta and the team has not won a playoff game since the 2004 season.

In 2012, the Atlanta Falcons will play four teams that made the playoffs in 2012 which are the Detroit Lions, the New York Giants, the Denver Broncos, and the New Orleans Saints. Atlanta’s other opponents will be the Arizona Cardinals, the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Oakland Raiders, the San Diego Chargers, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Josh Freeman               
After an impressive 2010 season, where Freeman threw for 3,451 yards and 25 touchdowns, to help lead Tampa Bay to a 10-6, things fell apart again in 2011.

After the team started 4-2, the team would proceed to lose the next ten games and finish the season 4-12, which led to the firing of head coach Raheem Morris. During the 2011 season, Freeman threw for 3,592 yards, however, he threw only 16 touchdowns, while throwing 22 interceptions, and fumbling the football five times.

While Matt Ryan has a number of supporting players around him, Tampa Bay has yet to find a reliable group of players to support Freeman. After having a 1,000-yard rushing season in 2010, running back LeGarrette Blount rushed for only 781 yards in 2011, and the team has not had a 1000-yard receiver since Antonio Brown had 1,248 yards in 2008.

This offseason the team signed wide receiver Vincent Jackson and offensive lineman Carl Nicks, and the team may draft running back Trent Richardson in the first round of this year’s draft. Only time will tell if, these moves will become the support Freeman needs at quarterback.

In 2012, Tampa Bay will play four teams that made the playoffs in 2011, which are the Denver Broncos, the New York Giants, the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons. Tampa Bay will also play against the Dallas Cowboys, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Washington Redskins, the Oakland Raiders, the Kansas City Chiefs, the San Diego Chargers, the Minnesota Vikings, the St. Louis Rams and the Carolina Panthers.

Cam Newton  
In 2011, rookie Cam Newton led the Carolina Panthers to a 6-10 record, while throwing for 4,051, which was the tenth highest in the league, and tied with Ben Roethlisberger for 11th most touchdowns with 21. Newton also contributed 706 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns.

The only seemingly down side to Newton in 2011 was his throwing 17 interceptions.

Attributing to his success in 2011 was wide receiver Steve Smith who accumulated 1,394 receiving yards, seven touchdowns, and 29 receptions of 20 yards or more. In addition, attributing to Newton’s success in 2011 was DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart who combined for 1,597 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.

While Smith, Williams, and Stewart are all returning in 2012, Carolina’s focus in the draft and in the rest of free agency should be finding a top receiver that could be a good second option for Newton while eventually being able eventually to take over the number one receiver spot.

In 2012, Carolina will play four teams that made the playoffs in 2011, which are the New York Giants, the Denver Broncos, the Atlanta Falcons, and the New Orleans Saints. Carolina’s other opponents will be the Seattle Seahawks, the Chicago Bears, the Dallas Cowboys, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Washington Redskins, the Oakland Raiders, the Kansas City Chiefs, the San Diego Chargers, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Drew Brees
There is a lot going on in New Orleans, with Drew Brees being franchised and trying to get a long-term contract, and with the bounty scandal. There is even talk of the Saints performing poorly this season, due to the suspension of several team officials, most notably head coach Sean Payton.

However, the team will have a chance to win every game, because no matter what is going on off the field; Drew Brees is still going to be Drew Brees. In his six seasons with New Orleans Saints, Brees has thrown for over 4,000 yards and for 26 or more touchdowns.

In 2011, Brees threw for the most yards and touchdowns in the league with 5,476 and 46 respectively. Brees led the Saints to a 13-3 record, and beat the Detroit Lions in the wild card round of the playoffs before losing to San Francisco in the divisional round. In the playoffs, Brees threw for 928 yards and seven touchdowns.

New Orleans lost receiver Robert Meachaem in the offseason, however Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston who in 2011 combined for 2,453 yards and 19 touchdowns, are both returning in 2012.

In 2012, New Orleans will play five teams that made the playoffs in 2011, which are the Green Bay Packers, the San Francisco 49ers, the Denver Broncos, the Atlanta Falcons, and the New York Giants. New Orleans other opponents will be the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Oakland Raiders, the Kansas City Chiefs, the San Diego Chargers, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Carolina Panthers.

Final Analysis
If New Orleans is going to win the division or make it to the Super Bowl, the team has two streaks working against them. First, since realignment no team in the NFC South has won the division title in consecutive seasons. Secondly, the home team of a Super Bowl host city has never made it to the Super Bowl in that season.

I believe that these streaks continue, and that the Atlanta Falcons will win the NFC South in 2012, and despite great seasons from Ryan and Brees, Ryan be the most successful NFC South quarterback this season.

Reference Links:
www.espn.com

MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: LeBron a ‘long-shot’ to sign with Lakers, won’t take less than max

Browns GM Dorsey rips team’s previous personnel regime

Sapp lying with explanation for giving co-workers sex toy gifts?

Report: MLB investigating source of Shohei Ohtani medical info leak

Jones cites 'problematic aspects' to NFL disciplinary process

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Le’Veon Bell on playing Patriots: Opportunity is here

Alex Collins wears dark visor to keep migraine headaches at bay

LeBron James skips media before Lakers game to avoid ‘dealing with the silliness’

Ron Rivera: Everyone knew Aaron Rodgers would be back

Alvin Kamara expected to play vs. Jets

Paul George after beating Pacers: Glad circus is over

The 'It's always chilly in Indiana' quiz

NFL puts safety entirely on players, again

Most important player on every team in each bowl matchup

NFL Week 15 Predictions

The 'Is there anything Brown can't do for you?' quiz

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Boogie, Z-Bo reach out and punch someone

Newcomers help Predators get back to 'Smashville' hockey

How Buddy Hield became the NBA's newest sniper

NFL MVP Watch: Antonio Brown enters suddenly wide-open race

The 'To the Victor, go the spoils' quiz

Matt Barnes and the looming end of the NBA's enforcers

25 players to watch in the pre-Christmas bowls

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

The 'It's always chilly in Indiana' quiz

NFL puts safety entirely on players, again

Most important player on every team in each bowl matchup

NFL Week 15 Predictions

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Boogie, Z-Bo reach out and punch someone

The 'Is there anything Brown can't do for you?' quiz

Newcomers help Predators get back to 'Smashville' hockey

How Buddy Hield became the NBA's newest sniper

NFL MVP Watch: Antonio Brown enters suddenly wide-open race

The 'To the Victor, go the spoils' quiz

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker