Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/25/12

How many quarterbacks have won 40 games or more in their first four seasons, since 1950?

Three: Dan Marino, Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan.

Prior to last season, only Marino had accomplished such a feat.

However, one must consider that the NFL went to a 16-game format in 1978, it is still an average of 10 wins per year.

And that is good. REALLY good.

Matt Ryan is now in his fifth season as quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons.

Typically, the fifth season is when a franchise quarterback, such as Ryan, enters his "prime". He has sure looked it thus far in 2012.

Last Sunday's showdown with the San Diego Chargers, in a matchup of two 2-0 teams, ended up being a cake walk for Matt Ryan. Some may call that a "big game win". In part, that "some" would be correct. However, that was not a true test of his mettle.

No, the true test will be when his Atlanta Falcons face Cam Newton's hungry, angry...desperate Carolina Panthers. The Panthers, who followed up an emotional win over the New Orleans Saints with a total melt down 36-7 loss to the New York Giants. The Panthers respond much better to adversity than to glory.

How Matt Ryan responds to the Falcons' glory of this past Sunday will tell all of us, the football watching public, and especially all of the fans who make up Falcon Nation, if he is the quarterback of the future.

The quarterback who, after a humiliating offensive shutout in last year's playoffs, uses the defeat to propel himself and his team deep into the playoffs.

If Matt Ryan makes three times a charm over Carolina, then he may well hoist the Lombardi trophy one day.

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