Atlanta Falcons

Should owners trust QB Matt Ryan versus Denver Broncos?

2 October 2016: Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) drops back to pass in first half action of the Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire)
Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire

There were 18 other quarterbacks the experts at Fantasy Pros recommended before the season ahead of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Not one of them has more fantasy points than Ryan at the quarter mark of the season.

Actually, Ryan leads all players with total fantasy points, and it’s not even close. His 1,473 yards, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions give him 107.6 fantasy points in standard leagues, which is 23.8 more points than Saints signal-caller Drew Brees.

Last week alone, Ryan went 28 of 37 for 503 passing yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He shredded the Panthers defense and dropped a 35-point burger on his fantasy opposition.

Through the first four games, he leads the league with 368.3 yards per game, 10.5 yards per attempt average and a 72.1 completion percentage. Ryan also has the most passing touchdowns. At the quarter mark of the season, he’s the league MVP.

With this hot start, Ryan’s fantasy stock has skyrocketed, and he should be owned in all leagues, but that doesn’t make the Falcons quarterback matchup proof. This week, the 31-year-old faces the Denver Broncos on the road, so it would be best to leave him on the bench where possible.

Anybody who watched Super Bowl 50 knows what damage the Broncos defense can do. In 2016, Denver is ranked in the top five in total defense, passing defense, points allowed, sacks and interceptions. Those are just about all your basic defensive categories.

In terms of yielding fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, the Broncos are sixth-toughest in that category. It’s still early in the year, so the sample size is relatively small, but last year, Denver allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks per game.

Not to take anything away from Ryan’s magnificent start, but he hasn’t faced a defense anywhere near as dominant as the Broncos. Three of the Falcons first four opponents’, Oakland, Carolina and Tampa Bay, are ranked among the top seven most-friendly matchups for opposing quarterbacks. Their fourth opponent, New Orleans, are middle of the road in terms of yielding fantasy points although they have allowed the fifth-most passing yards in the league.

One of the major reasons why Ryan is off to such a great start is because of his offensive line. Atlanta signed center Alex Mack over the offseason, and he is one of the most underrated additions for any team in the entire league. His experience and ability to call out the blitzes and set the protection has given Ryan more time in the pocket and thus more time to complete big plays.

But the Falcons haven’t faced a team with a real dominant pass rush yet. Carolina has nine sacks this season, which is tied for 12th in the league. That’s the more than any team that Atlanta has faced has on the season. Oakland, who should have far more sacks with Khalil Mack, only have five.

Denver is second in the league with 17.0 sacks, and Arizona, who has played an extra game, is the only team ahead of them. The Broncos are going to be this offensive line’s first true test, especially on the road.

Historically, Ryan hasn’t been a very good road quarterback. He’s averaged 15.53 points at home versus 15.29 points on the road, but he’s been far less efficient away from the Georgia Dome. Take a look:

Home - 106 touchdowns, 48 interceptions, 67.1 completion percentage, 7.75 yards per attempt
Road - 107 touchdowns, 61 interceptions, 62.4 completion percentage, 6.97 yards per attempt

His fantasy total has been about the same, but it takes him far more passing attempts to reach the same value. On the carpet inside the favorable Georgia Dome is where Ryan is at his best. He’s been great on the road this season, but again, it hasn’t come against quality defenses.

In the next two weeks, Ryan will face the Broncos and then the Seattle Seahawks. If he posts another MVP type performance in Denver, then our approach with him will change, but for the time being, Ryan should be considered a fringe QB1 in 12-team leagues in Weeks 5 and 6.

There’s a chance that owners don’t have a better quarterback option, and should that be the case, go ahead and ride Ryan’s hot streak, but owners with Andy Dalton, Kirk Cousins, Jameis Winston and Dak Prescott should consider sitting Ryan against the Broncos.

More of Your Falcons with Locked on Falcons Podcast


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