NFL Playoff Picture: Why Does Matt Ryan Struggle In Outdoor Road Games?

The Falcons need home field advantage to keep Matt Ryan indoors throughout the playoffs. For a look at NFC and AFC playoff matchups if the season ended today, click here.

Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan is dangerous at home like bed bugs and gas leaks and ghosts that hang out at the carport, where you'd least expect them. He's a fingertip catch away from being 20-0 at the Georgia Dome, as his lone home loss came two years ago when Roddy White dropped a game-winning touchdown against the Denver Broncos

But Ice ain't so hot on the road. Yesterday he threw two picks to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and it could've been several more than that if not for slick conditions that caused the Bucs D to drop a few. Look at these splits:

Screen_shot_2010-12-06_at_9

via Pro Football Reference

Everything is worse on the road except for yards per game, which only goes up by about six yards despite his throwing about six more times. He even scrambles more often when away from Atlanta, presumably because he's trying to run back to Atlanta. Compare his career splits to those of Joe Flacco, the QB he's most often compared to. Flacco's completion percentage dips by only a point, and his yards per attempt suffer by less than a yard. 

Aaron Rodgers' completion percentage falls quite a bit on the road, but his yards per game go up by about 20. Similar story for all the other starting quarterbacks drafted between 2005 and 2010 except for Jay Cutler and Chad HenneJason Campbell plays about the same at home and on the road. Vince Young is less accurate on the road, but much less likely to turn the ball over. Mark SanchezJosh Freeman, and Kyle Orton actually play much better on the road. Sam Bradford has a smaller sample size -- so far he's been slightly more accurate but with fewer big plays at home.

As the Boston College Eagles quarterback, Ice was a little bit more accurate on the road, but much more likely to take a sack and a little less likely to make a big play:

Screen_shot_2010-12-06_at_9

via College Football Reference

But is it road games, or just outdoor games? Ryan has played five games in enemy domes, completing 59.8 percent of his passes, averaging 256.6 yards per game and 7.17 per attempt, and throwing eight touchdowns to six interceptions. Interceptions aside, those numbers are much better than his total road stats, and that yards-per-game figure is about 40 yards better than his home average.

So it's not crowd noise that affects Ryan, but weather, which is strange for a player from Pennsylvania who played college ball in Massachusetts. What's the solution here? Besides putting some sort of visor on the front of his helmet that simulates the Dome's roof? 

Of Atlanta's remaining regular season games, only two are indoors. If the Falcons hope to make a deep playoff run, home field advantage will be critical. The good news, of course, is that the Super Bowl will be played under a lid this year.

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