NFL

Matt Ryan Gets Real About Tom Brady Crashing the NFC South

Matt Ryan has been a mainstay in the NFC South for more than a decade. As the face of the Atlanta Falcons, he’s put together a Hall of Fame-worthy career. The former NFL MVP has battled against Drew Brees and Cam Newton over the years, and even Jameis Winston. However, Ryan and the Falcons have a new divisional adversary: Tom Brady.

Matt Ryan’s Falcons career

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The Falcons drafted Matt Ryan third overall in 2008. Since then, he’s proven to be one of the top quarterbacks in football. Incredibly, the former Boston College standout has missed just three games in 12 years as the face of the franchise. The man known as Matty Ice has put up prolific passing numbers, thanks in large part to the presence of Julio Jones.

Since 2011, Ryan has eclipsed at least 4,000 passing yards every year. The four-time Pro Bowler enjoyed his best season in 2016. That year, the 6-foot-4, 217-pound signal-caller led the NFL in yards per attempt (9.3), quarterback rating (117.1) and touchdown percentage (7.1). Ryan’s fantastic campaign earned him league MVP honors.

During the postseason, he took his game to another level. Ryan racked up 1,014 passing yards and nine touchdowns. It looked like the former first-round pick had wrapped up Super Bowl MVP honors, but the Falcons infamously collapsed after jumping out to a commanding 28-3 lead over the New England Patriots. Brady caught fire in the fourth quarter before leading a game-winning drive in overtime. Ryan did lead Atlanta back to the playoffs in 2017. Since losing in the Divisional Round, the Falcons have gone 7-9 in back-to-back seasons.

Former NFL MVP dishes on Tom Brady joining the NFC South

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As he enters his 13th season as the Falcons’ franchise quarterback, Matt Ryan’s job just got a lot harder. That might seem strange considering Atlanta added Hayden Hurst and Todd Gurley to a starting lineup full of former first-round picks. But that’s the unfortunate truth with Tom Brady taking his talents to Tampa. Ryan went on SportsCenter in May to talk about the challenge ahead. And let’s just say the veteran quarterback has a ton of respect for TB12, according to 247Sports.

“It didn’t get any easier in our division, for sure. They’re solid. Tampa’s defense was really tough. They add Tom, who’s such a consistent and great player. The division’s going to be a battle every week,” Ryan said. “…Our defense is going to have their work cut out for them, that’s for sure. It’s tough but I think any time you get those division games late in the year, it gives you a chance to either make up ground, or separate yourself. That’s what we’re going to need to do that time of the year.”

He also added that it’ll be important for the Falcons to get off to a fast start. Ryan acknowledged that Atlanta has to keep up offensively, especially in the red zone, in a division that obviously features tremendous firepower in New Orleans and Tampa.

Can Atlanta make its first playoff appearance since 2017?

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Going 7-9 in consecutive years has left the Falcons watching the postseason from home. Looking at their 2020 schedule, it’ll be a tough road to make it back to the postseason for the first time since 2017. Atlanta kicks off its season with a home game against the Seattle Seahawks before traveling to Dallas. Both matchups will be tremendously difficult. Ryan and Co. do benefit from winnable matchups against Chicago (Week 3), Carolina (Weeks 5 and 8), Detroit (Week 9) and Denver (Week10).

Going 7-9 in consecutive years has left the Falcons watching the postseason from home. Looking at their 2020 schedule, it’ll be a tough road to make it back to the postseason for the first time since 2017. Atlanta kicks off its season with a home game against the Seattle Seahawks before traveling to Dallas. Both matchups will be tremendously difficult. Ryan and Co. do benefit from winnable matchups against Chicago (Week 3), Carolina (Weeks 5 and 8), Detroit (Week 9) and Denver (Week10).

However, after their Week 10 bye, the Falcons face a brutal stretch to close out the season. Ironically, they will have to take on Brady and Brees twice each. In addition, they will be tasked with stopping Patrick Mahomes in their penultimate game.

Ultimately, the Falcons have the offensive weaponry to keep up with Tom Brady, Brees and the rest of the NFC. Dan Quinn’s defense will be the difference between making a Super Bowl run and him losing his job. On paper, the Falcons look like a 9-7 type of team that will have to scratch and claw in the final weeks of the regular season to secure a playoff berth.