The question of who's the best sophomore quarterback in 2012 is a fairly easy one to answer this season: it's Andy Dalton.
Just as simple as that. I don't think I have to bring in statistics, or factor in Cincinnati's record compared to that of Minnesota, Carolina or Tennessee, these are things we know already anyways.
For posterity's sake, however, Dalton's stats have been better than those of Christian Ponder, Cam Newton and Jake Locker. Dalton's passer rating is first among the four sophomore quarterbacks still playing (no, I'm not counting Blaine Gabbert, who's likely done in Jacksonville) at 91.3. He has thrown for 2,980 yards, 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
The Bengals control their own destiny as far as getting into the playoffs. A victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers should get them in, barring a Cincinnati loss to either the Dallas Cowboys or Philadelphia Eagles in the two weeks that precede that big game.
Compare that to the Newton-led Carolina Panthers, a team that was seemingly eliminated from the playoffs on Labor Day. The same could be said for Locker and the Tennessee Titans, with the added factor of Locker struggling with injuries to begin the season. Then there's Ponder, who had the Vikings playing well to start the season. But Minnesota seems to have leveled off a bit, due in part to Ponder's inconsistent play.
Dalton has been anything but inconsistent. His worst game of the season was also his first game of the season, coming against a Ravens defense that seemed hell-bent on proving that they were the top team in the AFC in Week 1.
Since then Dalton and the Bengals have gone 7-4.
Who has been the top sophomore quarterback of 2012?
The most impressive part of this run has been in Cincinnati's response following its loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 9. Not only have the Bengals won four in a row, but Dalton has been impressive in each of those games throwing for a combined 850 yards, 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
That run bought the Bengals back into playoff contention—impressive considering the issues that the Bengals went through in the middle of the season (Cincinnati was 3-4 prior to the winning streak). Bouncing back with a victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants shows that Dalton is a true leader.
Compare that to Newton, whose Panthers have seemingly faced problems within their team all season long yet haven't been able to handle adversity well at all. A lot of this reflects poorly on Newton as much as the Bengals' bounce back reflects favorably on Dalton.
The question as to who is the best sophomore quarterback of 2012 isn't like MVP, DPOY or Rookie of the Year awards in the sense that those questions won't be answered until the end of the season, where as this question has been answered already. Even if the Bengals finish 7-9, the answer is Andy Dalton.
Dalton's likely to also have the best career out of the four players.