This would have been a fun expedition if it were, say, 2016 — but it's 2022 and things have been rather ugly for Ryan in his first season with the Colts, getting out to a 1-2-1 record.
My free NFL player props this week don't foresee life getting any easier against a scary Denver Broncos defense, as my Thursday Night Football picks are all centered around Matty Ice melting under the pressure.
Matt Ryan TNF prop picks
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.
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Matt Ryan TNF props
Bucked by the Broncos
Through four games this season, Ryan is averaging 281.25 passing yards per game, but there are a few things leading me to lean with the Under for TNF.
First, he's been boom-or-bust on his passing yards, going just 2-2 against a total of 233.5 and averaging 354 ypg in the two Overs... against 208.5 ypg for the Unders.
Second, nearly 40% of his passing yards have come in the fourth quarter of games, where he and the Indianapolis Colts have trailed entering each final frame — by double-digits in three of those contests.
He's been greatly helped by game scripts so far, and with the Denver Broncos offense also struggling through the first quarter of the season, I don't expect to see Ryan being forced to play catch-up on Thursday.
Oh, and there's also point No. 3: the fact that the Broncos' pass defense is really, really, good.
Denver currently sits fourth in Pro Football Focus' pass coverage grade (and fifth in pass rush grade) and has not allowed more than 179 passing yards to a QB so far this season — with three of those games coming against teams ranked higher (sixth, 16th, and18th) in dropback Expected Points Added per play than Indianapolis (23rd).
Yes, the absence of Jonathan Taylor means Ryan could likely throw more than usual, but no JT also means Denver has little-to-no fear of the Indy running game — and it can focus on shutting down the Colts' aerial "attack."
Prop: Matt Ryan Under 234.5 passing yards (-120)
Short (pass) king
Ryan enters Week 5 with the third-most passes of 20+ yards, but when it comes to plays above 36.5 yards — his longest completion total for Thursday — he has just two such passes: a 39-yarder against the Jaguars (off terribly blown coverage) and then this absolute duck against Tennessee last week, where he was bailed out by the defender slipping as his receiver needed to come to a complete stop:
Matt Ryan to Alec Pierce in the clutch pic.twitter.com/aqWqYdWIX5— Joel Moran (@joelvmoran) October 4, 2022
For the year, Matty Ice has been very cool with short to intermediate passes, as his average depth of target is just 7.2 (35th among all QBs) and he's 28th in intended air yards per pass attempt.
The Denver defense has also given up the fourth-lowest yards per pass attempt (6.0), fifth-lowest yards per completion (9.5), and has yet to surrender a pass play longer than 32 yards through four games.
It's not a particularly good matchup for Ryan, especially considering Denver is in the top half of the league in pressure percentage and Ryan crumbles under pressure.
Prop: Matt Ryan longest completion Under 36.5 yards (-110)
Sharing is caring
"Ryan crumbles under pressure, you say? Well, how badly?"
Excellent question — I'm glad you asked that.
When facing pressure, the veteran QB has just a 45.2% completion rate (24th in the league) and his lack of mobility leads to a 30.6% pressure-to-sack rate (third-worst among QBs with at least two games played), and his turnover-worthy play rate is 11.8% (also third-worst in the league).
In comes the Broncos, who are 12th in pressure percentage and fourth in blitz rate, knowing they don't have to worry about Taylor (no offense to Nyheim Hines and Deon Jackson) — they're going to key in on hurrying Ryan into passes and sit on those short/underneath throws.
Ryan has four interceptions already this season, and I'll happily pay the juice on him to complete at least one pass to a guy wearing the wrong colors.
Prop: Matt Ryan to throw an interception (-125)