Falcons: Ryan ready for next step
There's a reason Matt Ryan is receiving the "messiah treatment" in Atlanta.
Ryan erased the many black eyes of 2007 -- which included a felony conviction for the face of the franchise, a midnight-midseason exit by the head coach and a 4-12 record -- by leading the Falcons to an 11-5 record and playoff appearance.
Atlanta's marquee offseason acquisition last season -- Michael Turner -- rushed to fantasy stardom with 1,699 yards and 17 TDs. The Falcons made a splash this offseason by landing future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez. Throw in Roddy White, who emerged as a legit WR1 in '08, and it's easy to believe Ryan could be at the controls of a fantasy slot machine.
The Falcons spent seven of their eight draft picks on defensive players to shore up a unit that ranked 21st against the pass and 25th against the run. It should be no surprise considering head coach Mike Smith's extensive defensive background.
Atlanta won't have it any easier in '08. The Falcons face the AFC East and NFC East this season, and they won't sneak up on anybody. It's amazing what a year's worth of game film can do. Will Ryan beat those odds? Or will he suffer the dreaded sophomore slump?
That's the question fantasy owners must answer on their own before Week 1.