The Atlanta Falcons evened their record at 3-3 after their 30-28 road victory over the Dolphins and moved up a whopping seven spots from 26 to 19 in ESPN's latest NFL Power rankings.
The move may seem a bit knee-jerk considering the Falcons just handed the Miami Dolphins their fifth loss in a row, but Atlanta has won three of four games and has shown marked improvement in virtually all phases of the game.
One player who is not on ESPN's good side this is wide receiver Calvin Ridley. Each writer was asked to admit to a prediction they missed. In the case of Falcons' beat writer Michael Rothstein, it regards Ridley.
There were a few different answers here (including the semblance of a Falcons' pass rush), but I really believed Ridley would have a breakout season putting him in conversation with the NFL's top 10 receivers. Instead, Ridley has just 281 yards receiving and a career-worst 9.1 yards per reception. The Falcons will need Ridley if they are to make a playoff run -- at least a better version of the Ridley than they've been seeing over the first third of the season. -- Michael Rothstein
This is Rothstein's first year on the Falcons beat, so we'll forgive that he missed what we would term "Ridley's breakout season'' last year when he had 90 catches for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns. He was fifth in the NFL in yards and ninth in touchdowns, already placing him in the conversation of top-10 receivers in the league.
The question was, would he be able to sustain it with a new offensive coordinator in head coach Arthur Smith? We had our doubts as Ridley's targets were likely to take a big drop over the course of the season.
However, the 17-game season still has a long way to go. Last year Ridley saw a six-game stretch from Weeks 4 though 9 in which he had just 22 catches for 308 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers are similar to the Falcons first six games of 2021.
Rothstein rightly points out Ridley's yards per reception as a concern. Ridley is not getting the ball downfield like he did in previous seasons. Ridley averaged 15.7 yards per reception in 2020 compared to just 9.1 this season.
Despite his six targets on Sunday against the Dolphins, he still had just four catches for 26 yards.
As rookie tight end Kyle Pitts continues to do his best 2015 Julio Jones impression, Ridley could see coverage soften on him the second half of the season.
That Ridley could fall off after last season was always a valid concern, but we say he's capable of equaling last season's breakout performance with 11 games still yet to be played.
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