This season, the NFC South has not only been one of the best divisions in football but it's also been a goldmine for fantasy football owners who were able to draft, trade, acquire or steal any of the key players from the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Carolina Panthers. Yes, even the Panthers.
Saints QB Drew Brees has to be the division's fantasy MVP through 13 weeks. He's yet to throw for less than 200 yards in a game and has 3,855 on the season. He's thrown at least one touchdown in every game and has 28 this year against 18 interceptions.
Falcons QB Matt Ryan has been Mr. Consistent. He's thrown for over 300 yards only once but less than 200 only twice this season. A remarkable 22-to-8 TD-to-INT ratio gives him a big boost in leagues that penalize turnovers.
Falcons RB Michael Turner is on a tear ever since being held to just 39 yards against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12. Since that time, he's averaged 25.8 carries for 110.3 yards and 1.5 touchdowns. The injuries that prematurely ended his season in 2009 are behind him and he's bounced back with a huge year.
Bucs QB Josh Freeman is as consistent a fantasy performer as there is. Like Ryan, he's not going to drop 35 points in any week but you can pretty much guarantee he won't get you get you negative points. In a league with a lot bad fantasy quarterbacks, Freeman has been a tremendous value.
Falcons WR Roddy White started the 2010 season with his hair on fire. He topped 100 yards receiving in five of the first nine games - with a 201-yard game mixed in - and scored seven touchdowns in that span. However, it's been cold times for fantasy owners recently with White averaging only 71.3 yards per game and no touchdowns. With Turner running so well, White may not reach the lofty heights he did earlier but he was certainly the first-half fantasy MVP.
Players Rising Up
These players have the best matchups and I expect them to carry many fantasy teams in their playoffs.
Michael Turner: Turner is the best player going forward. With his performance of late and an easy, easy schedule in his last three games, many Turner owners will be collecting their league's championship trophy at season's end.
LeGarrette Blount: Blount has played well this season and he should finish strong with a cakewalk schedule and the Bucs playing until the end. With Freeman, Blount and Mike Williams, the Bucs are building something that looks similar to a certain Atlanta team.
Marques Colston: After disappearing in the first half of the season, Colston has reappeared and is primed for a great finish. With Brees throwing and an easy schedule on the horizon, Colston will repay his patient owners.
Players Falling Down
These players have the worst matchups and I expect them to disappoint over the last few weeks.
Kellen Winslow: It's hard to be more disappointing than Winslow has already but the schedule toughens up and Winslow is not a talented enough fantasy player to rise above it.
Jeremy Shockey: The emergence of Jimmy Graham and a tough upcoming schedule means Shockey's best days are probably behind him.
Pierre Thomas: Or Chris Ivory or Reggie Bush or whoever is starting for the Saints. Over the last three weeks, they play two of the best run defenses in the NFL in Atlanta and Baltimore. It's possible Thomas could make up for it through the air, but the Saints' running backs won't be an attractive option.