When considering position groups in the NFC South, as we’ll be doing over the next week or so, you wade into heated feelings pretty quickly. That’s doubly true for quarterback, where every fanbase has a credible claim to having the best player (except, bluntly, the Buccaneers), and nobody wants to cede an inch of ground.
Yet we can have, if not a calm and rational discussion, a discussion about who has the best quarterback situation in the division. I’m not even going to attempt not to be a homer in this regard, because the Falcons are in the best spot in the NFC South at the moment.
Why, you ask? A combination of starting talent and a settled, if still suboptimal, backup situation.
If we’re talking body of work, Drew Brees is the best quarterback in the division, but he’s reaching the end of his career. He’s also being backed up by either Tom Savage or the unproven Taysom Hill, and while the latter has genuinely interesting upside, the former is a slow-footed train wreck. Brees is legitimately old and showed tiny signs of slowing down in 2017, and he’s unlikely to improve on last year.
Then you’re selecting from either Matt Ryan or Cam Newton. Ryan is two years removed from an MVP award and was very good last year in spite of some atrocious statistical regression, and he’s manning an offense absolutely loaded with playmakers. Still in the prime of his career, Ryan has a legitimate case for being the best player here at the moment, and he’s got a proven veteran backup in Matt Schaub and an interesting project third-stringer in Kurt Benkert behind him. The Falcons would be screwed if they lost Ryan, just as any other NFC South team would be screwed without their starter, but they look better equipped to weather that than anybody but the Buccaneers.
Newton is who he is: An all-world talent who has more or less always worked with a lackluster set of receiving options and has a nasty habit of getting in his own way with lousy throws. He’s an underrated passer and his ability to run effectively might push him by Ryan, depending on how heavily you weigh that, but he’s got absolutely nothing behind him. The Panthers might be in worse shape than anyone else in the division if they lost Newton.
Then there’s the Buccaneers. Jameis Winston might be headed for a three game suspension and is quite obviously, to this point in his career, the weakest starter in the NFC South. The Bucs wouldn’t even be in this conversation if it wasn’t for the fact that Ryan Fitzpatrick is probably a better passer at this moment than any other backup in the division, which gives Tampa Bay a chance to hang around in games even if Winston’s not there.
But given the combination of starting talent and backups, I’d push the Falcons out in front here, with the Panthers and Saints only trailing slightly. This is still the most stacked division in football, quarterback-wise.
Would you agree?