Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan and Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford are both on their way up the hierarchy of NFL quarterbacks, but both have shown us early on that the NFL season is a roller coaster.
Matt Ryan ended last year as he had the year prior - another first-round playoff loss. In three playoff starts, Ryan has yet to win a game and has never thrown over 200 yards in the postseason. His ceiling appeared to be limited and his inability to take the proverbial "next step" was beginning to define him.
Enter new Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter and the experts are quickly singing a new song as Matt Ryan has begun this year's campaign in a much different fashion. Torching the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1 for 299 yards and three touchdowns and orchestrating an efficient 219 yards two touchdown performance on Monday Night Football, Ryan sits atop the league with a 117.6 passer rating.
The new up-tempo offense has put the focus on Ryan and his receiving triplets Roddy White, Julio Jones and the ageless Tony Gonzalez as Michael Turner and the running game have taken a backseat. Sidenote - this is exactly where "Burner" should have been early Tuesday morning as he earned a DUI in his Audi R8. Turner - Truth in Stupidity.
Just a few months ago, Matthew Stafford was argued passionately, by many, as one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Coming off a breakout season where he was finally healthy, Stafford entered into the 5,000 yard fraternity whose members only include Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Dan Marino. The young man with the self-effacing persona and 41 touchdowns in 2011 had entered the "top quarterbacks in the league" discussion.
Flash forward to today and you'll find a gunslinger ranked 27th amongst his peers and with four interceptions in two games - only two quarterbacks have thrown more interceptions than the Detroit QB. He needed last-second heroics to beat the Rams in Week 1 after throwing three interceptions in the first half and Week 2 didn't get any better.
His performance on Sunday night in San Francisco was erratic with simple bubble screens thrown at shoelaces, crossing patterns thrown behind the receivers and eyes locked in on Calvin Johnson.
What does all this mean in the big picture of the NFL season and the comparison of the two young signal callers? Simply put - not much.
One season does not make a career and two games do not make a season; the Lombardi Trophy is not awarded in September and yellow blazers are not given out in Canton after one spectacular year.
What this does signify is the 17-week season is full of ups and downs. Raise your hand if you had Arizona going to New England and ending the Patriots 10-year streak of winning their home opener?
Outside of the Cardinal players, I'm going to guess very few.
Drew Brees is 0-2 with four interceptions and Kevin Kolb is 2-0 and a top ten quarterback. Not even the greatest fictional writers in Hollywood could replicate the screenplay performances so far this year.
Regardless of the late summer surprises, both Ryan and Stafford will lead their respective offenses again in Week 3. At some point Matt Ryan will throw his first interception and Matthew Stafford will throw Calvin Johnson his first touchdown pass. Yes, Megatron has gone two games without a touchdown pass. Is it possible there is validity to the dreaded Madden Curse?
The marathon that is the NFL season has only passed the three mile marker; there is much more football ahead. Falcons fans should temper their excitement about "Matty Ice" and Lions fans should resist the temptation of critiquing their franchise quarterback too soon.
The real barometer for both will come in Week 16, fittingly the second to last game of the season, when the Lions host the Falcons in a Saturday night special two nights prior to the arrival of Santa Claus himself, or Hanukkah Harry - depending on your religious beliefs.
At that point, you'll have a much better idea of how both quarterbacks have fared this season and if things go according to plan, the game should have major playoff implications.
The NFL season is a roller coaster and the season has just begun for both Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford; enjoy the ride.114105