A weekly analysis of the Atlanta Falcons' quarterback play.
Rewind: Matt Ryan and his teammates got a much-needed bye this past weekend after coping with the loss of top receiver Julio Jones to season-ending foot surgery. Ryan remained optimistic about the offense moving forward even with receiver Roddy White (hamstring) banged up. He realizes the Falcons might have to scale back their high-powered attack while remaining effective and efficient. Ryan has thrown 10 touchdowns with three interceptions.
Fast-forward: If untested Philadelphia Eagles starter Nick Foles was able to throw three touchdowns and post a 133.3 passer rating against a shoddy Buccaneers defense, Ryan shouldn't have a problem at Tampa Bay on Sunday despite being short-handed. His best QB rating of 146.3 came against Tampa Bay on New Year's Day 2012.
Secret weapon: The expected return of Steven Jackson from a hamstring injury shouldn't make Ryan overlook what he has in the diminutive Jacquizz Rodgers. Maybe Rodgers won’t get that 1 yard up the middle on fourth-and-goal, but he can be dynamic in space against a linebacker. Keeping Rodgers involved in the game plan gives defenses something else to think about. Plus, Rodgers has been solid as a blocker in pass protection.
Prediction: Ryan has engineered two eight-game winning streaks since joining the Falcons in 2008. He might not duplicate the feat this season, but he’ll do enough to get the Falcons above .500. Will that be enough to make the playoffs?