Jan 14, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) talks with wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The NFL regular season is rapidly approaching. Soon, talks of the top players and best teams will flood social media as each team’s fanbase will champion for their guys. One of those key components to be considered a top player is how well they stack up against their divisional rivals.
In our last look back at the 2017 season, we take a glimpse at the players who have the highest grades against their division rivals from a season ago. We’ll take a look at the top-10 grades on offense and defense only on contests against their respective divisions. How well did your favorite players play against the division last year? Don’t see them below? Grab a PFF Elite subscription for access to Premium Stats 2.0 to find out for yourself.
Overall Grade against NFC South teams: 92.0
Since the Saints drafted Michael Thomas with the 47th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, he has been a force in NFC South clashes. On 174 snaps in route, he was caught 40-of-52 targets for 499 yards, generating a 125.4 passer rating. His three touchdowns against the NFC South were tied for first with teammate Ted Ginn Jr. The best news for the Saints? Thomas is only 25 years old and is just getting started.
Overall Grade against NFC South teams: 91.6
The wily veteran in the Falcon’s receiving corps, Julio Jones has plagued NFC South cornerbacks. He checked in slightly behind Thomas in 2017 with a 91.6 offensive grade against division foes but saw more targets with a total of 63, and more yards after the catch with 261. What’s more, Jones averaged a very healthy 3.78 yards per route run, which bettered the mark of Thomas (2.87) and paced all divisional pass-catchers. It feels like ages ago Jones was drafted, but he remains a staple of the Falcon’s offensive attack.
Overall Grade against NFC South teams: 90.9
No one was more electrifying to watch last year than Alvin Kamara, and he found himself almost neck-in-neck with Jones a season ago with a 90.9 offensive grade against the remainder of the division. As a staple of the Saints passing attack, Kamara averaged 3.32 yards per route run against his divisional rivals and generated a passer rating of 113.2. He also averaged 8.3 yards after the catch per reception and had an 83.0 percent completion rate when targeted as well.
Overall Grade against NFC South teams: 86.5
Matt Ryan, or “Matty Ice” as he is more affectionately known, has been the starter since Day 1 for the Falcons since being drafted in 2008. A season ago, Ryan dominated the division in-route to an 86.5 offensive grade and a 5-1 record to boot. Ryan notched a 75.9 percent adjusted completion percentage with his average depth of target at 9.2 yards, while he also led all NFC South signal-callers in passing yards with…