Matt Ryan vs. Joe Flacco, Again

Kevin C. Cox

You can thank NFL AM for this latest installment of Matt Ryan/Joe Flacco comparisons.

NFL AM featured a short segment yesterday that was annoying, and that segment was a brief discussion of whether or not Matt Ryan will be this year's Joe Flacco.

First of all, no. Matt Ryan won't be this year's Joe Flacco because Matt Ryan does not look like this Muppet, and Ryan isn't described by his own dad as "dull," and Ryan probably doesn't look this awkward when he takes a photo with a fan on the beach.

Oh, okay, I guess that wasn't really what the question was supposed to convey. The good folks at NFL AM wanted to dissect whether or not Ryan could win Super Bowl XLVIII and be named the Super Bowl MVP.

Mark Kriegel says no, Matt Ryan can't be the next Joe Flacco, because Matt Ryan is terrible at playing defense. Wait, no, that wasn't exactly it. Mark Kriegel thinks Matt Ryan can't be the next Joe Flacco because the Falcons defense finished the 2012 season ranked 24th in the league for total defense. Well, he has a point. Why even bother to play the 2013 season when we know that there is no potential for improvement from year to year? Just concede now, and we can all spend our Sundays catching up on Game of Thrones, or something.

Kriegel acknowledges that he thinks Matt Ryan will be more accomplished in 2013, between Ryan's development, the weapons around him, and the fact that a lack of playoff wins is no longer hanging over Ryan's head. He says that the fact that Ryan absolutely cannot win a Super Bowl in 2013 is not Ryan's fault, it's because of the defense.

Kriegel also alluded to the Falcons' 23rd-ranked pass defense and 21st-ranked rush defense in 2012 as reasons that Matt Ryan couldn't possibly win Super Bowl XLVIII, much less be named MVP. The Falcons were 23rd in the league for passing yards allowed, but also topped the league for passing touchdowns allowed in 2012, with just 14. The Ravens? Their defense was ranked 17th for passing yards allowed, averaging about 14 fewer yards per game than the Falcons defense. Wow, what a huge difference.

As far as the rush defense, we can all agree that it needs improvement, and Kriegel was correct about the Falcons being ranked 21st in the league last season against the run based on rushing yards allowed per game. Guess who was 20th in the same category? The Baltimore Ravens. How did Joe Flacco overcome a 20th-ranked rushing defense to win a Super Bowl? Is he magic? Because Mark Kriegel says it really isn't possible.

We all know that the average number of yards a team allows per game is the be-all end-all of statistics that predicts a team's success for the coming season. Never mind that the Falcons defense finished the 2012 regular season fifth in the league for points allowed. It's not like points scored by the other team actually affect the outcome of a game.

Maybe it's worth mentioning that in 2011, the season prior to their Super Bowl XLVII victory, the Ravens were ranked 29th for passing yards allowed, which they improved to 17th in 2012. But, obviously, you have to be near the top of the defensive rankings to win a Super Bowl, because defense, and only defense, wins championships, am I right? Which explains why Baltimore was third in the league in total defense in 2011, and 17th in the league for total defense last season, when they won the Super Bowl. Wait, that doesn't actually make any sense.

When 49ers homer Eric Davis is the most rational person in the room during a Falcons discussion, there's something gravely wrong. Davis says "maybe" to the question of whether or not Ryan can win a Super Bowl and be named MVP. Davis also feels that the Falcons haven't done much to get better on defense, but he called Ryan the key to the Falcons offense, and pointed out that we've seen teams get to the Super Bowl and win on the merits of their offense alone. Davis also points out that, from a contract standpoint, Ryan will be paid more than Flacco to keep him from hitting the open market, so from that perspective, Ryan is the next Joe Flacco.

What's missing from this discussion is any acknowledgement of everything else that goes into a team winning the Super Bowl. The idea that the performance of the 2012 Falcons defense--which didn't keep the team from reaching the NFC Championship--somehow dictates perpetual failure is as lazy as the now-moot argument that Matt Ryan would never win a playoff game because he hadn't won a playoff game until he faced the Seahawks in this past postseason.

What goes into a Super Bowl win? There's motivation--the Ravens had it last year with Ray Lewis' impending retirement. The Falcons have a future Hall of Fame tight end, Tony Gonzalez, who has been key to Atlanta's success over the past few years, heading into what is very likely to be his last season in the NFL. There's team chemistry--many of us expected somewhat of a rebuilding year last season with new coordinators on both sides of the ball, and the Falcons exceeded our expectations. This team is more comfortable and experienced in Koetter and Nolan's schemes. And, there's luck, which nobody can predict, not even talking heads on NFL Network.

Is Mark Kriegel a stupid dumb, or does he have valid points? Discuss!

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