America needs some serendipity now. The most baffling and stifling array of presidential candidates in political history has dominated this year’s news cycle as is pre requisite every four years in this nation. Talks of wall building, deleted emails, and traditional mudslinging is in full flight. Media coverage should just loop Beyoncé’s now not so infamous catchphrase “I ain’t sorry” before each show just so viewers can prepare themselves appropriately. Systemically driven racism has manifested itself in the form of an abundance of senseless murders by the police on people of color they are paid to serve and protect. The killing of police officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas has served as a tipping point of sorts indicating racial tensions have conflicted this nation more so than at any time in the past 50 years.
Our nation is changing right before our eyes but one thing excites us all and is here to save the day; training camp in the NFL is where this nation actually takes on the melting pot status it is often deemed to have. Office pools and foolish fantasy team names are in full effect as your Facebook friends post savage memes uplifting their team while insulting yours in one fell swoop. It is not that the average rabid NFL fan loves training camp as much as they love that it symbolizes a time of year that unites us all. Football is king and we all know it, live it, and love it. Even if it means missing a sermon or sixteen to twenty depending on how well your team fares this year.
Viking fans are praying that this is not the year Adrian Peterson hits the legendary running back over 30 wall, Patriot fans await the return of Brady in hopes of him running amuck and wreaking havoc on the league, Seahawks fans hope for a fifth straight double-digit win season in the post beast-mode era, and Dallas Cowboy fans would just like the opportunity to lead the league in something other than arrests, suspensions, and drug abuse treatment programs for players.
Here in Atlanta the Falcons have assembled a roster that has the makings of a playoff contender in a crowded and competitive NFC. The offense boasts Julio Jones who led the league in receiving yards and tied for first in catches with Steelers wideout Antonio Brown as he continues to craft out a hall of fame worthy resume. Opposite Jones is the newly acquired speedster Mohamed Sanu which will provide an upgrade over revered Falcon Roddy White who spent much of last season like he was literally on his last leg. Devonta Freeman will be anchoring the backfield and has a knack for the end zone and should improve on his 1,056 yards and four yards per carry average with an improved offensive line featuring cornerstone Jake Matthews and free agent prize Alex Mack. The defense is highlighted by Desmond Trufant, who is arguably the best cornerback in football no one knows nor talks about. If Sean Weatherspoon and Courtney Upshaw can stay healthy and future hall of famer Dwight Freeney can provide third down and situational pass rushing this team was sorely lacking last year, the Falcons should have a formidable front seven as well.
All that said, we all know in this NFL kingdom quarterback play rules so this years’ Falcons production directed by Arthur Blank should be aptly titled Saving Matty Ryan. As Matt Ryan enters his ninth full NFL season after being drafted third in 2008, Ryan has put together a very good career most QB’s would love. A career rating of roughly 90, almost two to one TD to Int ratio, and a completion percentage at a very accurate 64%. Problem is, these numbers offset the adage that numbers don’t lie. Maybe lie is a little harsh but it most certainly does not tell the full tail. Ryan has had what you would surmise at this stage has a borderline elite career with elite expectations. He is not in the class with the likes of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, and the recently anointed Cam Newton. Ryan is the guy on the outside looking in where the cool kids sit in the lunchroom at high school. Where the after-mentioned have lifted their teams to epic heights with superb play, it is arguable that Ryan is the type who may not provide you superb postseason play unless he is gifted with superb talent around him. Not to say there is anything wrong with that when the likes of Brad Johnson, Trent Dilfer, and Joe Flacco are toting Super Bowl rings around. Maybe it’s just a case of good luck (see Eli Manning twice) versus having no luck at all. While Ryan has proven to be a more accurate passer and steady leader than his predecessor Michael Vick, the reality is that Ryan has led the Falcons no further than the Vick experience. They both boast (although I wouldn’t boast) one NFC championship game appearance that culminated with wishing the other team well as they moved on to the Super Bowl.
Ryan is at a crossroads in his career where the Falcons may very well be looking to make him a predecessor if the Falcons cannot secure a wild card at least which is going to be a tall order in this loaded conference. The Falcons do have talent to make noise but a lot of that is going to depend on Ryan and his ability as Rakim put it best, “To do work with these, like Hercules.” We shall find out soon enough.