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Matt Ryan's Atlanta Falcons get shot at redemption

The Divisional Round

The playoffs continue this weekend, with the right to play on Championship Sunday at stake. NFL.com's analysts break down the divisional round:

» Kimberly Jones: Ravens at Broncos
» Bucky Brooks: Packers at 49ers
» Jeff Darlington: Seahawks at Falcons
» Albert Breer: Texans at Patriots

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We don't have to wait too much longer now.

The Atlanta Falcons spent an entire season winning football games while acknowledging success was hollow if they failed in January. That realization created a muted environment in Atlanta, a four-month preamble to the real thing.

The regular season became the preseason. It could not have been easy.

And while the entire franchise feels the weight of the three one-and-dones since the 2008 season, no one has more riding on Sunday's matchup against the Seattle Seahawks than Matt Ryan.

The Falcons showed their faith in Ryan by opening up their passing attack this season. The fifth-year quarterback rewarded them by setting career highs in completion percentage, passing yards, touchdowns and passer rating.

But 0-3 clings to Ryan's back like a zombified primate. Never mind the fact that the first loss came as a rookie and the last two came against eventual Super Bowl champions in the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants. This is a results business, and Ryan has fallen short in the big moment.


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At 27 and smack in the middle of his prime, the real Matt Ryan stands up Sunday. Is he about to claim a spot at the NFL big boys table alongside Brady, Rodgers, Brees and the Manning brothers? Or is he the quarterback that's very good, but never quite great? More Tony Romo than Tom Brady.

A win over the Seahawks won't sway every doubter. But another loss will have suffocating effect. Other than that, no pressure, Matty Ice.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.

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