Matthew Stafford is a quarterback Falcons fans can identify with - he played at Georgia, he's gritty, he loves a comeback, and like Matt Ryan, he's not reached his ceiling. Both quarterbacks are widely considered good but not yet great. If you don't respect Stafford, then you're probably not a Matt Ryan fan. Despite their similarities, they couldn't be having different years.
Stafford, on the one hand, isn't playing very well. Sure, he led a gutsy, fourth quarter comeback against the Saints last week. And sure, we're not even at the halfway point of his 2014 campaign. With his team leading its division, there's plenty of football to play, and they're sitting pretty.
But look at the numbers; Stafford has rated negatively in five of his last six games. Overall, his Pro Football Focus rating is -4.4 this year, 27th among quarterbacks. It's not a reach to say that Stafford has been a bit of a disappointment to Lions fans this season. On the other hand, Ryan is playing very well. He's got the second-highest Pro Football Focus rating among quarterbacks. Unfortunately, their supporting casts couldn't be any different. Before we go there though, let's talk about why Stafford is playing so poorly.
If there's a culprit, it's the Lions' rushing attack, which ranks 31st with an average of 82 yards/game. That coupled with the absence of Calvin Johnson has made their offense decidedly predictable. It's affected Stafford's play, making him look like a quarterback he really isn't. That said, Stafford is used to the microscope. Whether it's his happy feet or sloppy release, he's never short on critics. And to be honest, to an extent, he can afford to play this way. Why? Because his defense is truly exceptional.
Going into Sunday's contest, the Falcons have to capitalize on Stafford's poor play. Let's be honest, we probably won't run up 30+ points on the Lions, so it will be imperative to limit Stafford's production. If the comeback he orchestrated just 48 hours ago is any indication, he may be shaking off some of the rust that has plagued him through the first seven games. For our sake, let's hope that's not the case.