The Atlanta Falcons are the only remaining undefeated team in the NFL entering week nine, thanks in large part to an explosive offense powered by quarterback Matt Ryan. With two All-Pro caliber receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones, a bulldozer of a running back with Michael Turner and the best tight end in NFL history in the form of Tony Gonzalez, Ryan has the Falcons offense running at elite status unmatched in Falcons history.
Ryan ranks eighth in the NFL in yards with 2,018 and third in touchdowns at 17, and that is with the Falcons already receiving a bye in week six. Both his completion percentage and quarterback rating rank third in the NFL as well, showing he is an accurate and efficient field general. Now in his fifth year, Ryan has truly emerged as a legitimate MVP contender and might be hoisting multiple awards and trophies by season’s end if he and the Falcons retain their spot atop the NFL.
While the Falcons underperformed three weeks straight, struggling to beat lesser teams prior to the bye, the Falcons came out firing on Sunday, overmatching the Eagles en route to a 30-17 victory. In the victory, Ryan recorded 262 yards and three touchdowns, spreading the ball to seven different receivers.
The Falcons seem destined to repeat their recent regular season success on the way to a playoff bye but have yet to turn their high victory totals into anything meaningful in the postseason. If Ryan is to become one of the next great quarterbacks in the NFL, he will have to translate his early season success into clutch playoff heroism.
Call it a hunch, but Ryan is ready to take the leap from very good to great this season. Last week, the Falcons looked their dominant selves that we grew accustomed to seeing in the early weeks of the season, and if Ryan continues this type of performance, it won’t be long before the nation recognizes him on the same level as the elite quarterbacks in the league.
Pickups of the Week:
Jonathan Dwyer: Running Back, Pittsburgh Steelers
Dwyer showed last week why the Steelers will not miss a beat with Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman out with injury. Against the Redskins last week, the third-year back amassed 17 carries for 117 yards on the ground, absurdly similar to his 17 carries and 122 yards in week seven against the Bengals. Pittsburgh loves to run the ball and Dwyer has shown he can rack up the yards if given the carries. Facing an inconsistent but at times deadly New York Giants defense, Dwyer should still be able to gain plenty of yards. Barring a comeback and start by either Mendenhall or Redman, Dwyer is a nice safety valve at running back for those affected by this week’s bye.
Cecil Shorts: Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars
A productive fantasy-worthy receiver out of Jacksonville has not been seen since the days of Jimmy Smith, long before fantasy football became the monster industry it’s emerged as in the last five years. Shorts is trying to reverse that with a strong first half of the season, with 20 receptions for 400 yards and three touchdowns. The second-year Mount Union product is projected to finish with 916 yards and seven touchdowns, which would have ranked 31st and 21st last year, respectively, amongst tight ends and receivers. If Shorts can continue putting up numbers like his eight-catch, 116-yard game on Sunday, he could develop into a legitimate option for fantasy owners. He is still largely unproven, but with two straight solid fantasy days, and four out of seven productive weeks on the year, Shorts can prove his worth in the coming weeks of the season.