Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks
Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET
Matt Ryan spent the first eight years of his career being a good but not great quarterback. In 2016, he was great.
In 2017, he’s good.
While there are plenty of reasons for why Ryan is well off last year’s numbers — a new offensive coordinator, a quiet season from Julio Jones, inevitable regression — his play is a big reason the Atlanta Falcons are looking nothing like last season’s NFC champions. Last year the Falcons scored the seventh-most points in NFL history. They came into this week’s games ranked 15th in the NFL in points per game this season. The Falcons brought back practically the same roster, and are just 5-4.
It would have been unrealistic to expect Ryan to replicate his MVP season. However, he has had a massive drop. Last season he threw for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He had never approached those numbers in his career. This season, through nine games, he has more interceptions (eight) than he had all last season. He has just 13 touchdowns. He had 309 yards per game last season, and that’s down to 263.6 this season.
Ryan hasn’t gotten a ton of criticism. A lot of that has gone to new offensive Steve Sarkisian, who replaced Kyle Shanahan after Shanahan had a great season calling plays. But Ryan hasn’t been the same quarterback either, despite practically the same supporting cast. Although regression was coming, there was probably a happier medium between last season’s outlier and what he has done this year.
Of course, the Super Bowl hangover seems to be a real thing for everyone. The Falcons aren’t the same team. A lot of their players haven’t been as good this season. There’s still time for a turnaround, and last week’s 27-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys might be a sign it’s coming, but the Falcons have been a bit underwhelming so far.
That makes Monday night a big game for the Falcons. It’s not an easy one. The Seahawks are tough in Seattle, though they’re dealing with injuries. Seattle won’t have cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor, and that could open things up for the Falcons and Ryan.
Maybe Ryan has a big game and gets on a roll for the second half of the season. He’s not going to win the MVP this season, but it’s not too late to make a move toward a playoff berth.
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