3. Matt Ryan’s play
This has not been the start to 2017 that Matt Ryan dreamed of following his MVP campaign. After throwing just seven picks all of last year, Ryan has five through the first four games. Ignoring the stats, that are far from the numbers he was putting up a season ago, the eye-test will show a more skittish and unsure quarterback in 2017. He has made some boneheaded decisions that have resulted in turnovers and finally cost the Falcons a game last Sunday.
Turnovers are the most obvious blemish so far for Atlanta, and one that the Falcons must fix if they want to even sniff the postseason in 2017. Sure, the team is 3-1, but four games in, turnovers could have allowed that record to look a lot worse. The Falcons currently have a -4 turnover differential and it is an even worse -6 over the last two games. Matt Ryan has been the main culprit, accounting for all six of these turnovers, but he has vowed that he and this offense will get back on track.
Ryan has looked his old self at times this season, but it has been inconsistency that has plagued Ryan over the course of his career. The concern here is not whether Ryan can be pretty good. It is whether he can be great because that is what Atlanta needs to return to the Super Bowl. This young defense is not quite good enough yet, which means Matt Ryan and this Falcons offense must find their 2016 mojo. Time will tell if this is just a rough patch for last year’s former MVP, or if perhaps he has reverted back to some of the old tactics that have haunted him in the past.
Tack on three more men to the already extensive list of injuries the Falcons have had in 2017. Both Julio Jones and Mohammed Sanu exited Sunday’s game with lower-body injuries and never returned. Neither one of those injuries appear to be that serious, but Monday, news broke that defensive lineman Jack Crawford will miss the remainder of the year with a biceps injury. That is already the third injury across the defensive line this season, which is not an area the Falcons can afford to be losing guys. The good news is that most of these injuries look to be short-term outside of Crawford’s. Vic Beasley Jr., Courtney Upshaw, Ryan Schraeder and Julio Jones all have chances to play the Falcons next game on October 15th. It is imperative that these key guys regain their health and get back on track for the second half of the season.
1. The early weeks of the NFL can be a mirage
3-1, terrific odds to reach the playoffs, no reason to panic, right? We Falcons fans know that is never the case. Let’s not rehash the numerous leads blown and heartbreaking losses the Falcons have suffered over the years, but it is always worth reminding ourselves how different the league is going to look twelve weeks from now. This could be good news or bad news for the Falcons, who while in a good position, have not exactly played up to expectations at times. This 3-1 2017 team could be on the same track as the 2016 Falcons that were also 3-1 through four weeks, or they could be on the same path as 2015 Atlanta team that started the year 5-0 only to collapse and miss the playoffs. How the Falcons respond following a loss and their bye week will give everyone a much clearer picture of if the Falcons are once again the class of the NFC.