With the Atlanta Falcons enjoying a Week 8 bye, what better time is there to look back on the season and praise some of the team’s top performers? Well, actually a Week 9 bye week would’ve been a better time because that would’ve been the halfway point of the season, but we’re making due with the hand we were dealt.
The offense has been stellar for the Falcons this season — ranking fourth in the NFL in total yards and ninth in total points. Coming into this season, I don’t think you could’ve asked for a better performance from that side of the ball.
Today, we’ll name the team’s offensive MVP through the first seven weeks of the season, along with three players who deserve an honorable mention. Every single player featured in this article deserves a tip of the cap for his performance thus far.
Without further ado, let’s look.
Honorable Mention - Calvin Ridley
Atlanta’s first-round draft selection came into the league as the most polished wide receiver in his draft class and was expected to make an immediate impact, but I don’t think anyone expected him to be this good so quickly.
Ridley has set the league on fire, scoring six receiving touchdowns in a three-week stretch between weeks 2 and 4. Seven games in, and he’s currently second in the NFL with those six scores, behind only Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill who has seven.
Ridley has been the primary benefactor from the extra attention Julio Jones commands, especially in the red zone. The rookie has already staked his claim as one of the best number two WRs in the game, doing exactly what the team hoped he’d do when they invested the 26th overall pick in him back in April.
Honorable Mention - Jake Matthews
You haven’t heard Jake Matthews’ name too much this season, and as an offensive lineman that’s a beautiful thing. The Falcons made Matthews one of the highest paid tackles in the NFL this past offseason and, seven games into the first year of that deal, the returns have been spectacular.
Matthews has committed just one holding penalty all season and has allowed just one sack for a loss of seven yards. On an offensive line that has faced its fair share of struggles in pass protection this year, Matthews has been a rock when it’s come to protecting Matt Ryan’s blindside.
Pro Football Focus grades Bruce Matthews’ middle son out as the 13th-best tackle in the NFL with a 76.8 overall mark. He’s also the fifth-best tackle in the league in pass protection with an 85.2 pass blocking grade. Jake Matthews has been a game-changer on the left side of the offensive line.
Honorable Mention - Julio Jones
Yes, I know that Julio Jones has yet to catch a touchdown pass seven weeks into the season, but that should by no means devalue what he’s meant to this offense.
Julio Jones is arguably the greatest weapon in the NFL and he’s treated as such by opposing defenses who make it a priority to never let number 11 beat them. As a result, players whom the defense slacks off of, like Calvin Ridley, can catch six touchdown passes. Matt Ryan can dissect the light coverage on his other weapons and methodically terrorize those defensive schemes.
Jones is second in the league in receiving yards with 812. He’s 10 yards behind leader Adam Thielen, but averages 15.3 yards per reception to Thielen’s 12.3 ypr.
Julio is always the ultimate weapon of the Falcons’ offense, and the best part about him has nothing to do with on-field performance (which is obviously spectacular) — it’s the selflessness he displays, as seen in his response to Suzy Kolber’s question following Atlanta’s Monday Night Football victory over the Giants:
Suzy Kolber asked Julio about the TDs and he gave a pretty great response pic.twitter.com/aLvhMx5KXJ— Ben Gretch (@YardsPerGretch) October 23, 2018
Offensive MVP Through Week 7 - Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan has put this injury-riddled Falcons team on his back, and has kept them from getting completely buried by the adversity. Ryan is playing the best football of his career, and the biggest shame of a losing season would be the fact that he won’t get recognized for it.
Following Week 1 struggles (features some really bad red zone play-calling and execution), both Ryan and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian have been on their game. Ryan leads the NFL in passing yards with 2335 through seven weeks, and has an outstanding TD/INT ratio of 15/2 (that’s not even counting his two rushing touchdowns).
Ryan is on pace to have a better season than he did in 2016, when he won the MVP award. He’s willed the Falcons through their struggles, and deserves to be quarterbacking a 5-2 football team. Had his defense just not wasted incredible starts against the Saints and Bengals, where he threw for 793 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions in the two combined games which were both somehow lost, Ryan would be getting a lot more national love.
If the Falcons have any hope of making it to the playoffs it’ll be on the back of Matt Ryan, and if that happens, then he deserves some serious league MVP consideration once again.