Matt Ryan: Can He Break Out of Slump in 2015?

Matt Ryan is going through the roughest stretch of his eight-year career with the Atlanta Falcons. Can he break out of his 2015 slump before it’s too late?

The Atlanta Falcons have dropped their last four games and have lost five of the last six. Miraculously, they are still very much alive in the NFC Playoff race due almost entirely to their fast and surprising 5-0 start. Atlanta handled the NFC East (4-0) and clobbered a struggling Houston Texans team in Week 4 before the club hit their stride. The Texans and the Falcons have identical records entering Week 13.

While ProFootballFocus.com still has him rated as the 6th best passer in the National Football League, Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan has been a shell of himself during the Dirty Birds’ slide of late. The 85.3 grade nor the 88.6 quarterback rating according to Pro-Football-Reference.com don’t do justice to Matt Ryan’s poor play since Week 5.

-= Related: Atlanta Falcons: NFC Power Rankings, Week 13 =-

Since Atlanta needed overtime to beat the Washington Redskins at home in Week 5, Matt Ryan has as many touchdown passes as he does interceptions with 10 apiece. He has thrown a combined 5 picks in the Falcons’ last two games, both home losses to playoff caliber teams in the Indianapolis Colts and the Minnesota Vikings.

Ryan has also fumbled the football career high 7 times already in 2015. Through the first 11 games of the 2015 season, Matt Ryan has more turnovers (19) than touchdowns (16). From one of the two highest paid players on the team, these frequent ball security issues are certainly concerning. While he’s thrown for over 3,000 yards for the 7th time in 8 NFL seasons, Atlanta’s problems of late stem largely from Matt Ryan’s lackluster play.

Can Matt Ryan work his way out of this near season-long slump? While he’s not playing anywhere near a Pro Bowl level like Atlanta Falcons fans expected (2010-14 Matt Ryan), he’s about where he was as a first or second-year player with the club statistically. He did lead Atlanta to the playoffs in 2008 and won a combine 20 games his first two years in the league. 9 or 10 wins in 2015 is still very much on the plate and that could stand as enough to get the Atlanta Falcons are Wild Card berth.

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure wrote a great piece about how Matt Ryan is handling a disappointing personal season in 2015, stemming from questions Ryan answered on his weekly radio show. Ryan is “hell-bent in doing everything” he can to get back to playing at a high level in Week 13 versus NFC South rival Tampa Bay down in Raymond James.

Week 13 is a great time for Matt Ryan to break out of his 9-week swoon. A loss to Tampa Bay would put the Atlanta Falcons down 0-2 to the Buccaneers and Tampa would hold the tiebreaker for second place in the NFC South. Carolina clinches the NFC South a win or a Falcons’ loss on Sunday. A Falcons’ loss to the Buccaneers would put Atlanta at .500 (6-6) and in third place of the NFC South.

Ryan has historically played well against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with only three career losses to the Bucs in eight seasons. One came in Week 8 this year at home, another came in Week 17 of the 2012 NFL season, where Atlanta had already clinched the top-seed in the NFC with a 13-2 record entering the final week.

Perhaps getting back WR/KR Devin Hester and possibly an injured WR Leonard Hankerson will provide Matt Ryan with the weapons he needs on his second, third, or fourth passing progressions. He can’t target WR Julio Jones exclusively and TE Jacob Tamme is good, not great.

We can’t blame the Falcons’ offensive line this year, as Ryan has played well with worse lines the last two years. It’s time for Matt Ryan to rise up and lead his Atlanta Falcons to a road victory against a divisional rival to move to 7-5. Week 13 is a must-win game and everybody in Flowery Branch has to know that.