Matt Ryan deserves a little love after his Week 1 performance. And a few nods as an MVP candidate.
He'll have plenty of chances to prove himself this year, too. Ryan and his Atlanta Falcons face a ridiculously tough gauntlet of big-name opposing passers -- starting Monday night against a guy named Peyton Manning.
But for now, all is rosy in Atlanta.
Ryan produced the best all-around performance of any quarterback in Week 1, even if he was largely overshadowed by rookie Robert Griffin III's highlight-reel effort in New Orleans, the surprising 48-point explosion by Mark Sanchez and the Jets and Manning's clinical debut in Denver.
But Ryan, not RGIII, Sanchez or Manning, emerges from Week 1 tops in the NFL in Real Quarterback Rating, the measure of all aspects of QB play we use at Cold, Hard Football Facts. It accounts for rushing yards, sacks and fumbles, as well as the passing efficiency numbers associated with traditional passer rating.
Ryan touched the ball 35 times (31 passes, 3 rushes, 1 sack) in Atlanta's 40-24 win over Kansas City Sunday. He totaled 317 yards, a very impressive average of 9.06 yards per touch, with zero turnovers, and posted a Real QB Rating of 139.8, well ahead of RGIII's 124.4. Credit Ryan's four scores.
He was the only quarterback in Week 1 to account for four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing). That's twice as many TDs as RGIII or Manning (two passing), for those of you keeping score at home.
Four quarterbacks in Week 1 produced three touchdowns, but all coughed up the ball at least once as well.
The beauty of Real Quarterback Rating is that it allows us to see the relative value of each field general's all-around performance. More importantly, it's an incredible indicator of team success, proving in no uncertain terms that winning in the NFL is all about the quarterback.
• Teams who were better in Real QB Rating last year went 223-33 (.871).
• They were a near-perfect 15-1 (.938) in Week 1 (Detroit-St. Louis was the lone anomaly).
At the end of the day, passing numbers make up the bulk of Real Quarterback Rating, and Ryan was brilliant even by this measure.
• 23 of 31, 74.2 percent, 299 yards, 9.6 YPA, 3 TD, 0 INT, 136.4
Ryan enters Week 2 No. 2 in passer rating, No. 4 in completion percentage and No. 7 in average per attempt.
He will have plenty of opportunity to prove he's a legit MVP candidate this year. Here's a look at the high-profile QB duels that will define Atlanta's season -- and maybe even the legacy of its quarterback.
Week 2 vs. Denver (Peyton Manning)Week 3 @ San Diego (Philip Rivers)Week 4 vs. Carolina (Cam Newton)Week 5 @ Washington (Robert Griffin III)Week 8 @ Philadelphia (Michael Vick)Week 9 vs. Dallas (Tony Romo)Week 10 @ New Orleans (Drew Brees)Week 13 vs. New Orleans (Brees)Week 14 @ Carolina (Newton)Week 15 vs. NY Giants (Eli Manning)Week 16 @ Detroit (Matt Stafford)
Wow. That's a tough slate for Ryan, and certainly a tantalizing one for football fans. If he can consistently outgun that gauntlet, fans around the country will be talking "Ryan for MVP" by the time they sit down to their Thanksgiving dinner.
The Patriots have fielded a non-descript defense pretty much since the team's breakout offensive season of 2007.
New England has consistently scored plenty of points over that period. But the defense has consistently failed to come through in critical situations. So the team invested heavily in young talent in the draft and it appeared younger, faster and harder-hitting in New England's 34-13 win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
Most notable was the team's lights-out performance against Chris Johnson and the Tennessee ground game. The Titans produced just 20 yards on 16 carries, and 11 of those 20 yards came from quarterback Jake Locker, who was sent to the room that bears his name with a shoulder injury in the second half.
Johnson, who set an NFL record with 2,509 yards from scrimmage in 2009, was held to 4 yards on 11 attempts (0.36 YPA). It was one of the worst rushing performances in the history of the Titans/Oilers franchise and one of the best defensive performances in Patriots history. The two old AFL rivals each began playing in 1960.
Here's a look at the worst rushing performance in Titans history, based upon average per rush attempt (with an assist from the ProFootballReference.com play index):
Conversely, it was a historic day for New England's run defense.
RGIII was the runaway winner for best rookie performance of Week 1, leading the Redskins to a 40-32 win over Drew Brees and the Saints. But he also had the luxury of facing a fairly soft defense, at least based upon 2011 performance.
Cleveland's Brandon Weeden faced a Philadelphia defense that topped the NFL last year in sacks and in Negative Pass Play percentage. The Browns lost 17-16. Weeden's performance was easily the worst in the NFL in Week 1.
Miami's Ryan Tannehill stared down the barrel of a Houston defense loaded with young defensive playmakers. The Dolphins lost 30-10.
Andrew Luck faced a Chicago team that traditionally fields one of the NFL's most fearsome defenses. The Colts lost, 41-21.
Russell Wilson enjoyed the luxury of facing Arizona's defense. But even then he fell short at the end, 20-16, despite a final drive that included 20 offensive snaps.
Here's how the five stack up in Week 1 in key measures of passing efficiency in Week 1, Offensive Passer Rating, yards per attempt, Real Passing YPA (which includes the impact of sacks) and Real Quarterback Rating.
We projected the Texans would beat the 49ers in our preseason Super Bowl predictions with the SI.com NFL crew.
Houston dispatched Miami and rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill with relative ease, 30-10. The deadly Texans defense forced three sacks and three INTs in 39 dropbacks, a devastating rate of a Negative Pass Play on 15.4 percent of dropbacks. That is a Super Bowl champion number.
We track Negative Pass Play percentage as part of our Defensive Hog Index. We introduced the indicator in 2007, and each year the champion has been among the NFL leaders in NPP%.
After Week 1, Houston is right on pace, No. 2 in Negative Pass Play percentage and No. 2 overall on the Defensive Hog Index.
By the way, Tampa is No. 1 on the DHI after shocking Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, 16-10 in Week 1. Tampa Bay was dead last on the Defensive Hog Index at the end of 2011.