The Atlanta Falcons are going up against history this weekend. The team has only made one Super Bowl in their history, back in 1999, where they lost to the Denver Broncos. They couldn't even qualify during the Michael Vick era. But with the way quarterback Matt Ryan has been playing this season, this may finally be the year for the team to break through, starting with the NFC Championship Game.

A season for the ages

Ryan was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year back in 2008, when his potential seemed nearly limitless. The Falcons were looking for a leader to bring them out of the scandal Vick entrenched the team in and Ryan seemed like the right guy to do it, so long as the team could surround him with some talented players.

He began making the Pro Bowl every other year, yet questions seemed to mount about his true ability.

Coming into this season, the Falcons would be remiss to not begin thinking about who would be next in their quarterback lineage. Ryan was coming off one of his worst seasons as a pro, and with quarterbacks such as Drew Brees and Cam Newton in the NFC South with him, it seemed unlikely he would stack up to them once again.

Well, this season turned out a lot different for Ryan and the Falcons. The quarterback's 117.1 passer rating was the best in the NFL this season. He finished second in passing touchdowns and yards and third in completion percentage. Sure, it helped to have star wide receiver Julio Jones and a rebuilt offensive line, but the quarterback was at the charge of this process.

As a result, the team is back in the NFC Championship Game.

Biggest test yet

Even if he wins the MVP trophy, Ryan won't be satisfied without team success. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the rise and the Carolina Panthers are better than their record this season, so this may be the Falcons' best shot at reaching the football mecca.

The challenge will be taking down an equally great quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, who has the Green Bay Packers playing at a high clip. If there's anybody up for the challenge, though, it will be Matt Ryan.

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