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Matt Ryan destroyed the NFC South without remorse in 2016

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The reigning NFL MVP is a puzzle the NFC South now has to solve.

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Generally speaking, Matt Ryan has fared pretty well against the NFC South. I’d wager without even looking that he’s never done as well as he did during his 2016 MVP season, however.

Pro Football Focus broke down his performance in all six games against the NFC South, and what you’ll notice is that in addition to the team’s nice 5-1 record in those contests, Ryan was absurdly good against the Buccaneers, Panthers, and Saints.

Look at those numbers. They are startling, particularly against the Panthers, who were one of the better defenses in the NFL as recently as 2015. Given improved weaponry, arguably his best offensive line, and Kyle Shanahan’s gigantic bag of tricks, Ryan was legitimately great against his biggest rivals. The talent has long been there for Ryan, but like most quarterbacks, he doesn’t truly thrive unless the situation is favorable. Thankfully, it was in 2016, and being able to feast on a group of weak defenses helped a great deal.

The pessimist here would say that Ryan would struggle to reach those heights again, but the simple reality is that none of these defenses are likely to be leaps and bounds better than they were in 2017—the Saints may quietly have come closest to truly upgrading that side of the ball—and Ryan’s still got all his weapons. It should be another banner year against the division for #2.