2-2 vs 0-2-1

Heading into week 5, the 2022 Atlanta Falcons are 2-2. Some preseason experts predicted the Falcons would be so bad that they could be the first 0-17 team. They're already 2-2. It's not time to celebrate or get all mired in misery, but we should acknowledge that in contests between midlevel teams in the modern NFL, the difference between a win and a loss can be one or two plays. The difference between the 2022 Falcons being 2-2, 0-4, and 4-0, for example, is probably about a dozen plays in total.

The question I ask is if the Falcons did everything right in the offseason and kept Matt Ryan, would they be remarkably better this year? A look at the stats below of Mariota v Ryan at this point is cloudy. Mariota hasn't exactly busted out of the gates as a reborn phenom in a system some said was geared to his talent, but he's 2-2. Ryan hasn't proved a Stafford-like savior for a QB-needy team, but thanks to an inexplicable tie with the Texans, and a Chris Jones whisper, Matt Ryan and the Colts are 1-2-1.

Mariota: 779 passing yards, 3 passing touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 6 fumbles-3 lost, 7 sacks, 95 rushing yards, and 2 rushing touchdowns.

Ryan: 1,125 passing yards, 5 passing touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 9 fumbles-3 lost, 15 sacks, 12 rushing yards and 0 rushing touchdowns.

Mariota: Rating 76.9, QBR 49.6 Completion Percentage 58.2%

Ryan: Rating 85, QBR 41.4, Completion Percentage 66.2%

If the difference between the two QB's is this cloudy, why is one 2-2 and the other 1-2-1? Thanks to Younghoe Koo being almost perfect, we could say advantage ATL in special teams, but it appears as though Indy has a slight advantage on Total Defense. The biggest advantage for the Falcons, heading into week 5 is one I don't think anyone would've predicted: Arthur Smith's running game vs. Frank Reich's.

Going into 2022, fans of both teams would've acknowledged that Indy's O-line, and their backs, were superior. At this point in the season, however, the Falcons have almost doubled Indy's run total 672-351. Is this based on the idea that Indy has been getting blown out more and thus forced into more passing situations? (Ryan has attempted 154 passes and Mariota has attempted 98). It doesn't matter, the Falcons AVG per carry is 5.1, Indy's is 3.5, and 6TDs to 1 for Indy. Who could've predicted a slashback like Cordarrelle Patterson (340 yards, with a 5.9 avg. per carry) would be outrushing Jonathon Taylor 328 yards with a 4.05 avg. per carry.) at this point? Does that mean (gasp!) that the Lindstrom-led line has been more effective at opening more holes than the all-world Quentin Nelson-led line? Who could've predicted that? I don't think Matt Ryan did.

At this point in the season, the vaunted Indy O-line has given up 15 sacks. There are a number of factors that could cause that, including a QB holding onto the ball too long, or the inability of receivers to break free. The mobility of Mariota v Ryan benefits the Falcons O-line, but nobody would've predicted that that vaunted O-line would give up more than double the amount the Falcons 7 sacks. I'll bet Matt Ryan didn't either.

Before the season, numerous Falcoholics posted that the running game in the modern NFL is all but extinct. It's little more than a strategic tool used to get LBs to take one step up on the play-action and open up the middle of the field some say, and others add that it doesn't even do that in any substantial way. They wrote that to address Arthur Smith's offensive scheme that relied on the running game to control the pace of the game. They also wrote that unless Derrick Henry decides to follow Smith to Atlanta, his scheme won't win games in the modern NFL.

NFL insiders say it's so hard to win in the NFL that they break the season down to quarters. If a team can continue to win two times quarter, and drop in one or two three wins in quarter that team will likely be in the postseason. The first quarter suggests that Matt Ryan's old team is a little better, or luckier, than his new one, now if the Falcons can continue to go 2-2, and slip in one 3-1 somewhere, they might find themselves in the postseason. I'm not bold enough to predict that, of course, and most aren't, but who could've predicted a 2-2 first quarter report? Who could've predicted that it would be THIS offensive line, and THESE running backs who would've done a little of this and a little of THAT to control the pace of a game, and/or maintain possession in the fourth quarter long enough to get two wins? A running game is not everything, of course, and it's a lot less important than it used to be in the NFL, but it's still something, and it can prove the difference between two midlevel teams. At this point in the season, in the battle specific to Matt Ryan's old team to his new one, the running game appears to be the Falcons only substantial advantage between the two teams.

<em>This FanPost was written by one of The Falcoholic's talented readers. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The Falcoholic.</em>