What Matt Ryan's Struggles Mean for Atlanta's Super Bowl Hopes

Chris TrapassoAnalyst INovember 19, 2012

Nov 18, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) changes the play at the line of scrimmage against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Cardinals 23-19. Mandatory Credit: Josh D. Weiss-US PRESSWIRE

Matt Ryan essentially removed himself as the MVP front-runner with a five-interception performance at home against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12.

Although the Atlanta Falcons came back to win, the occasionally sporadic and careless play of their quarterback doesn't bode well for their Super Bowl aspirations. 

You see, Ryan can afford to throw three interceptions against the Oakland Raiders or five picks against the Arizona Cardinals. 

The Falcons, as a team, are vastly more talented than those teams. 

Playing at home helped those terrible performances from Ryan, too. 

But, as we've seen in the postseason, a dud of an effort from Atlanta's visibly-talented signal-caller against the NFC's elite simply won't get it done. 

He's on pace for over 4,900 yards passing and 32 touchdowns with 19 interceptions—a year that'd be the most prolific of his young career. 

What's more, Ryan is set to attempt a ridiculous 635 passes, or, 64 more than he attempted in 2010 when he set the franchise record. 

To put that into perspective, only Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford threw it more than 635 times in 2011. 

Ryan is the Falcons offense, and frankly, he should be with weapons like Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez at his disposal. 

But without a steady running game—sorry, Michael Turner—and a susceptible run defense that allows 5.0 yards per carry, if Ryan plays poorly, the Falcons are extremely susceptible to losing to a quality team.

There won't be any Oakland Raiders or Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs.

Playoff-caliber teams capitalize on major mistakes. 

Now, before you think I'm being too harsh on Ryan, I'm aware of the tremendous season he's pieced together in the stat book and the win-loss column. 

I am also aware of the psychological block that he and his team will face when they reach the postseason. 

In this, Ryan's fifth professional campaign, after a Pro Bowl nod, steady production in the regular season and three trips to the playoffs with no wins to show for it, isn't it time Ryan is held to a higher standard?

Sure, Ryan could play marvelously in the postseason like he has for most of the year, but a shaky start against a good team in January, and the Falcons may be forced to kiss their legitimate Super Bowl hopes goodbye once again.