Matt Ryan opened 2014 with a 448-yard passing game against the New Orleans Saints. Since that game, his numbers have been on a bit of a roller coaster ride, and the Falcons passing game has struggled in recent weeks.
Through eight games, Ryan is currently on pace for 4,612 yards, 30 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. If those numbers stood, he would finish with his second-best season in the NFL in terms of yardage and touchdowns. Unfortunately the Falcons are averaging just 13.7 points per game over the last three weeks, though.
But better days appear to be on the horizon for the passing game. JJ Zachariason from numberFire examined the Falcons upcoming schedule and discussed why fantasy owners should buy into this unit going forward. Here are some of his findings.
NEP is a unique numberFire statistic (if you want the full definition, read it here), but basically this shows the Falcons are going to be playing some weaker secondaries when they return from their bye. While Zachariason was writing from a fantasy perspective, these numbers translate into optimism for Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White.
According to numberFire's defensive passing NEP rankings, the Ravens rank No. 9 and the Lions rank No. 3. Ryan didn't look great against Baltimore and while he started out hot against the Lions, the offense failed to score in the second half.
Going forward, though, we have a few reasons to remain confident Ryan and co. can turn it around (to an extent).
1) The Falcons are on a bye, giving them time to rest, heal and regroup.
2) They play the Buccaneers when they return, the team they beat 56-14 earlier this year. Tampa is still bad.
3) Ryan won't face a top 10 passing defense (in terms of yards allowed per game) until Week 14.
Atlanta's offensive line remains a concern, and that won't change overnight, but we should see an improvement in Ryan's numbers for the second half of the season. If you're looking at it from a fantasy perspective, Ryan, Jones and White all have upside. They're good buy-low targets, especially Jones, if you can make a trade.