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A quarterback playing better than anyone in the league, a group of dangerous wide receivers, and a still deadly tight end. The Panthers have their work cut out for them.
Give him five seconds in the pocket and you're done for. This is the mantra teams need to follow when facing Atlanta Falcons' QB Matt Ryan. He's not a QB who improvises well, or who can shrug off a pass rusher to turn a play around, but give him any semblance of a clean pocket and he'll pick you apart.
Leading up to the 2012 season the major concern would be whether the Falcons could protect Ryan, and keep him upright throughout the season. One of the key reasons why Atlanta faltered in 2011 was a banged-up Todd McClure, the veteran center who was their stalwart. In the off-season it was happenstance that Peter Konz, the best center in the draft fell to their laps when most pegged him to be a 1st round pick. The offensive line has depth now, and even when they lost starting LT Will Svitek the Falcons can still protect Ryan.
Talking about the Panthers' secondary is inconsequential– they're going to get killed. Not Chris Gamble, and certainly not Captain Munnerlyn or Josh Norman are prepared to deal with the depth and variety of Atlanta's receivers. This game is all about Charles Johnson, Greg Hardy, and Frank Alexander; they will have to carry the team.
Shake the pocket and make it dirty, all of a sudden Matty isn't as cool as ice. Leave him uncontested and he's white-hot. There is no reason to believe the pass rush will put it together all of a sudden, and in turn there's only one way this can go.