Matt Ryan: Will the Atlanta Falcons Star Become an Elite Level QB This Year?

Will BrownContributor IJuly 13, 2011

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 15:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts after Michael Turner #33 scored a 12-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers during their 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Georgia Dome on January 15, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In three short and incredible seasons, Matt Ryan has won over Atlanta Falcons fans and is the unquestioned face that the franchise needed after the Michael Vick debacle.

The Falcons have won 33 games in his first three seasons as the Falcons QB; that's by far the most wins in any three-year stretch in franchise history. It is also tied with Dan Marino for the most among quarterbacks in their first three years.

During that time, Ryan has thrown for over 10,000 yards and 66 touchdowns, to just 34 interceptions. He has increased his touchdown production every year. Last year he posted a QB rating of 91, up from 80.9 the year before.

Now in his fourth year and already with two playoff appearances under his belt, the 26-year-old is looking to make the next move to becoming an elite level quarterback: winning a playoff game.

This past season, after leading the Falcons to the best record in the NFC, Ryan and company ran into the Green Bay Packers. The Packers were the hottest team in football and completely demolished the Falcons in the second round of the playoffs. The Packers would go on to win the Super Bowl, while the Falcons have had the whole offseason (and a lockout) to think about what could have been.

This year, Ryan is going to have to lead the Falcons through one of the toughest schedules in the NFL to make the playoffs again. Head Coach Mike Smith has already said that they plan to open up the offense a little bit more and let Ryan do some of the play calling. This is a good sign because Ryan was lethal in the no-huddle offense last year.

A more opened up offense would be a good thing with some of the weapons the Falcons have, such as Roddy White, rookie Julio Jones, tight end Tony Gonzalez, and running back Michael Turner. And those are just the start of the great players the Falcons have around Ryan.

This year, I expect Ryan to throw for his first 4,000-yard season (he had 3,705 last year) and possibly crash the 30-touchdown club while he's at it (28 last year). If he can do that, then lead the Falcons back to the playoffs, and then win a game or two while he's there, how can he not be considered an elite level quarterback?

Either way, Ryan isn't about his stats. He's just worried about winning games. He's a bright, young man that has shown that he puts the team ahead of himself. The Falcons are very happy to have them as the face of the franchise, and it will all pay off with some playoff success in the very near future.

And to the Falcons' fans, "Rise up."