NFL Analysis: Falcons' Matt Ryan is Under a Ton of Pressure in 2012

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On Tuesday, CBS Sports columnist Clark Judge penned a piece on the thirteen NFL players facing the "strongest headwinds" for 2012. I would have been shocked if Matt Ryan would have been left off the list. Ryan knows he's under pressure and Falcons fans know Ryan has to step up after the egg that the offense laid in New York.

Here is what Judge had to say about Ryan:

Sooner or later, he absolutely, positively must win a playoff game, and here's hoping it's sooner. He's 0-3 in his career, and until or unless he breaks through he can't be considered one of the game's top quarterbacks. The New York Rangers' John Tortorella had it right the other night when he said your legacy is measured by your performance in the playoffs. All I know about Ryan's performance in the playoffs is that in four seasons as a starter he has one less victory than Tim Tebow does in one.

There isn't anything I can disagree with in that statement. Yes, Tebow has a playoff victory but if there are any Falcons fans that want to trade Ryan for Tebow then they should be strung up, hung by their feet and made to watch every throw Tebow has ever made in the NFL on repeat for 72 straight hours.

Bloguin's New Orleans Saints site, The Saints Nation, took the day off raising money for the bounty program to write a piece ranking the NFL Quarterbacks going into the 2012 season. They ranked Ryan #11, right behind Joe Flacco and Matt Schaub. Personally, I'd rather have Ryan than Flacco or Schaub by a pretty wide margin. The only really real WTF moment I had was when I saw Matthew Stafford was #4. He put up some great numbers last year but he's only had one good year. I'm a Georgia guy and I don't think he's got any business being that high but that's just me. Does he have a huge upside? Yes, but let's see him get through a couple of full NFL seasons before we annoint him king. How many playoff wins does Stafford have? Here is what they had to say about Ryan:

I probably had him in the top 10 before that playoff game. It's becoming increasingly clear to me that Ryan, while a great passer with elite potential, doesn't have what it takes to win big games late in the season. He's just played too poorly in big games. That said, he's still an upper echelon guy that will dazzle you at times.

I think the criticism is a little strong saying that he doesn't have what it takes. He hasn't proven he can win in the playoffs yet but that doesn't mean that he never will. The Falcons finished 2011 with an 8-3 run, they finished 2010 with a 9-1 run and they finished 2009 by winning their last three games. Clearly they had to have won a few "big" games late in the season during that stretch. What Ryan hasn't done is win in the playoffs and that's what's going to stick with him until he finally does it.

Matt Ryan can't win in the playoffs is the new "the Falcons have never had back to back winning seasons." As a team the Falcons left that in the dust thanks to Mike Smith and company. This is the year that Ryan must leave his playoff criticism in the dust and take the next step forward.

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