Saturday, December 7, 2013
The Associated Press
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. - Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan still won't criticize his NFL colleagues for leaving him off a list of the league network's top 100 players this summer.
Matt Ryan may have been snubbed in polls naming the top 100 players in the NFL, but he has the Atlanta Falcons in position to go 4-0, something the team hasn’t done since 2004.
The Associated Press
CLEVELAND BROWNS (0-3) at BALTIMORE RAVENS (2-1)
WHEN: 8:20 p.m. Thursday
TELEVISION: NFL Network
OUTLOOK: These two teams are only about 300 miles apart geographically, but a million miles apart in the NFL strata. Young Browns might be worst team in league (4-15 under Pat Shurmur), while Ravens are thinking Super Bowl. There isn’t a doubt who’ll win. Baltimore has won 12 consecutive home games and eight in a row in this series, while Cleveland has dropped 11 consecutive division roadies. That 13-point spread is a tough call, though. The Ravens are two TDs better than the Browns, but Baltimore is coming off a hugely emotional one-point Sunday night triumph over New England, so a natural letdown is in play here. Still, even coasting, I like the Ravens to cover.
PREDICTION: Ravens, 27-10
– Greg Cote, Miami Herald
Instead, Ryan has turned that slight to his favor.
He has emerged as the NFL leader in passer rating, completion percentage and touchdowns. Now in his fifth year, Ryan finally has a top cast of playmakers and a steady play-caller in place.
"I think obviously winning is what it's all about, and we've done a good job of that so far," Ryan said. "It's a fun game. It's fun to play. We've got great teammates, we have good camaraderie and it's a fun team."
When the NFL Network released its list of the current top 100 players a couple of months ago, Ryan's name was nowhere to be found in the players-only or fan polls.
Perhaps Atlanta's 0-3 playoff record weighed against the quarterback with a 46-19 regular-season mark entering Sunday's home game with Carolina.
Ryan, the 2008 NFL offensive rookie of the year and a Pro Bowler two years later, believes the best favor he can show is to keep winning.
"The statistics and those kinds of things, if we play well and if I play well, I think we're going to give ourselves a chance to win," he said. "Ultimately that's what I'm most proud of."
Getting off to quick starts has been a big part of early success for Atlanta, which is the only NFL team to score touchdowns on opening possessions of the first three games.
Another early burst Sunday could help the Falcons reach their first 4-0 start since 2004.
Ryan and his teammates were in such a groove last week at San Diego that their opening 10-play, 80-yard drive included no third downs. Everything called by first-year offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter seemed a potentially good fit.
"Just staying ahead of the chains," receiver Roddy White said. "I think we're doing a good job of play-calling on first and second down, and Dirk's doing a heck of a job just being aggressive, getting us chunks down the field. Every time we get chunks down the field and get some explosives on those drives, we're going down and scoring points."
Ryan might publicly brush off the meaning of his numbers, but one trend is notable -- the Falcons are 26-0 when his passer rating is 100 or better.
VIKINGS: Tight end Kyle Rudolph didn't practice because of a bruised quadriceps muscle, and defensive end Jared Allen was limited by a neck injury.
Both players were banged up Sunday against San Francisco. Allen had to sit out a few series in the fourth quarter because of neck spasms but returned to the game.
RAIDERS: Oakland made a move to bolster its struggling pass rush by signing proven defensive end Andre Carter to a free-agent contract.
The Raiders brought Carter infor workouts in training camp, then earlier this season before signing him to fill a glaring need.
PANTHERS: Quarterback Cam Newton downplayed the criticism he received last week from receiver Steve Smith, saying he and Smith are still "on good terms."
Smith said he chided Newton on the sideline last Thursday night for sulking during the closing minutes of Carolina's 36-7 blowout loss to the Giants.
BUCCANEERS: Tampa Bay signed defensive end Jeff Charleston to fill a roster spot that opened when Adrian Clayborn was placed on injured reserve.
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