Matt Ryan may be one of the most underrated and underappreciated quarterbacks of this era. Since coming into the league in 2008, the Atlanta Falcon ranks in the top 10 among all quarterbacks in passing yards per game (270.8) and completion percentage (65.42%), third in total passing yards (51,186), and fifth in total passing touchdowns (321). He also ranks in the top 16 (minimum 30 games played) in adjusted yards per passing attempt (7.48) and interception percentage (2.16%). Yet, his name always seems to fall to the bottom of the second or even third tier in the best current quarterbacks discussion.
One season after leading the NFL in completions, what do sportsbooks project for Ryan in 2020? MyBookie.ag has the following player props available:
Passing Yards: 4,550.5 (over -120; under -120)
Passing TDs: 27.5 (over -120; under -120)
Volume has always played a significant role in Ryan’s yearly statistical output—he’s had 600-plus pass attempts in six of his last eight seasons. It helps that he’s missed only three starts in his career. Those factors are the biggest reasons why he’s thrown for 4,095 yards or more each of the last nine years. Aside from a random spike in 2016, Ryan’s average yards per attempt has remained relatively constant throughout his entire 12-year career. So what does that mean for his projected yardage output in 2020?
Ryan’s 616 pass attempts in 2019 were the most he’s had since 2014, despite missing a game and playing several weeks with an injured ankle. He also got sacked a career-high, league-leading 48 times. If you look at his pass attempt totals per game over the last five seasons, weighted a little heavier toward more recent seasons, it’s fair to project around 601 pass attempts over 16 games for Ryan in 2020.
As mentioned above, Ryan’s yards-per-attempt totals have been remarkably consistent throughout his career. The last nine years in particular (aside from his 9.3 mark in 2016) have been very close, ranging from 6.9-8.1 with most years falling in the mid-7s. If we average out those last nine years with his peak season removed, you get 7.51 yards per attempt. Interestingly enough, his career average is 7.509 yards per attempt. Over 601 passing attempts, that equals 4,513.5 passing yards—which is slightly below MyBookie’s posted total. Ryan either needs 606 or more pass attempts at 7.51 yards per attempt or needs to average 7.57 yards per attempt on 601 attempts to hit the over.
The crux of this prop bet is whether or not you believe Ryan will throw more than 601 times in a season (like he has in six of the last eight years) or if his passing output will continue the trend we saw from 2016-18, a period where he averaged 557 per season. I lean toward fewer pass attempts than last season and subsequently under 4,550.5 yards (-120) for this bet.
How about touchdowns? Ryan threw 26 of them last season, but can he add to that total in 2020?
Ryan’s touchdown rate has been pretty volatile in recent seasons. Over the last six years, he finished with the following touchdown percentages: 4.5%, 3.4%, 7.1%, 3.8%, 5.8%, and 4.2% respectively. However, if you average those numbers out, it comes out to 4.76%, which is nearly identical to his career mark of 4.71%. Using his last half-decade as the benchmark, Ryan’s touchdowns total on 601 attempts projects out to 28.61—which is slightly above MyBookie’s posted total. Ryan needs a 4.66% or higher touchdown rate in 2020 to go over the posted total. While he didn’t reach that mark in 2019, it’s below his career average and he’s had a higher touchdown rate in six of his 12 NFL seasons. I like the over 27.5 passing touchdowns (-120).
In reality, bettors should probably stay away from Ryan props this season. There’s little margin for error in the posted totals, so 16 starts is likely a must for either over to cash. A volatile touchdown rate indicates he’ll either soar past or fall well short of the posted total. The Falcons have a brutal road schedule that includes more outdoor games than last season (including in Green Bay and in Kansas City) as well. In theory, it should be easier to predict Ryan’s 2020 season given the only major offensive changes (personnel and coaching wise) is a running back (Todd Gurley for Devonta Freeman) and a tight end (Hayden Hurst to Austin Hooper) swap, but he’s actually one of the harder quarterbacks to pinpoint.