Originally posted on isportsweb.com
By Patrick Schilling  |  Last updated 1/5/17

After taking care of business in the final regular season game in the Georgia Dome, Matt Ryan and company secured the number two seed in the NFC and a first round bye. With a playoff berth already secured, and only playing for the first round bye, Matty Ice went to work throwing four touchdowns for the third time this season and a 75% completion percentage to go along with it.

All things considered, the Falcons should have dominated the Saints and had a relaxing fourth quarter, but that wasn’t the case. Once again the defense proves to be the Achilles heel of the team as they gave up 19 fourth quarter points. Yes the Falcons got the win, but that sort of defensive performance may not be enough come the divisional playoff round.

Every playoff team in the NFC is led by a high powered offense with the exception of the New York Giants and even then, Odell Beckham Jr. proves to be enough offense by himself most games. The Falcons currently have the 27th ranked defense in the league giving up 25.4 points per game. They’re also 25th in yards per game surrendering 371.2 yards per game. Of the teams below them in points per game, none have more than seven wins and all of them missed the playoffs by a lot. But the Falcons ended the season with an 11-5 record and a first round bye.

There are some bright spots on the defense however. Linebacker Vic Beasley ended his season with 39 tackles, six forced fumbles and a league leading 15.5 sacks, all of this enough to put him in good place to win Defensive Player of the Year. Rookie safety Keanu Neal has done his share logging 72 tackles and defending nine passes. Fellow rookie linebacker Deion Jones finished with 75 tackles, one forced fumble, three interceptions and two defensive touchdowns. Both rookies have done enough to be in the question for defensive rookie of the year. That being said, even with Jones, Beasley and Neal having career years, the Falcons still struggle to stop opposing offenses.

In my opinion Matt Ryan is hands down the MVP this year, and the biggest reason for the Falcons success. He threw for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and finished with a season quarterback rating of 117.1. He made it impossible for defenses to cover the field with his constant distribution of the football, becoming the first quarterback in history to throw a touchdown to 13 different players. The Falcons also led the league in points per game, 33.8 and second in yards per game, 415.8. Ryan hasn’t necessarily struggled in any game this season, except against the Chiefs where he was responsible for a pick six and a pick two, but it’s clear that if the Falcons want to make a run in the playoffs, Ryan has to be absolutely immaculate.

If Ryan can play his best football of the season, and the defense can hold opposing teams to 21 points, then the Falcons have a real shot at bringing home the Lombardi Trophy. The problem is the defense, even if they are able to accomplish that one game, isn’t consistent enough to play at that level throughout the playoffs. It’s gonna be up to Matt Ryan to continue matching opposing offenses and if the Falcons do make a run then I believe we may witness one of the best postseason performances in the last decade.

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This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.


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