Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer 17d

Falcons' Matt Ryan: They don't give the trophy at this time of year

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan expressed confidence that his 4-4 team can turn it around despite a rocky first half of the season.

The Falcons entered the season as the NFC's favorite after losing to New England in the Super Bowl. But now, they find themselves in third place in the NFC South behind New Orleans (6-2) and Carolina (6-3), in large part because of a sputtering offense.

"Well, I think it's fair to say we have a lot of work to do," Ryan said during his weekly radio show on 680 The Fan. "I think we're halfway through the season. Like they say all the time, they don't give the trophy out at this time of the year."

The Falcons started the season 3-0 but have dropped four of their past five, including Sunday's 20-17 loss to Carolina in their NFC South opener.

"I think we can be better than we've played up until this point," Ryan said. "I think we are better than we've played up until this point. I think we've played mediocre, but yet I don't think we're a mediocre team. I think we can be a very good football team."

The Falcons averaged a league-best 33.8 points per game last season under former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. This season they're averaging 21.3 points per game under new coordinator Steve Sarkisian. They haven't been efficient on third down. They've turned the ball over too many times, with Ryan already throwing seven interceptions -- as many as he had in 2016. And they've struggled in short-yardage situations for reasons ranging from the offensive line getting dominated, Sarkisian's play-calling not being up to par or players not making plays.

"I remain very confident," Ryan said. "I really feel like we've got a good group of guys, guys that are working hard and doing the right things during the week. And guys that are going to make plays for us in this next, eight-game stretch. I really believe that. And I hope that comes to fruition for us."

The Falcons entered Week 9 with the second-most difficult remaining strength of schedule with opponents having a .591 winning percentage. Next up is Sunday's home matchup with the Dallas Cowboys (5-3), followed by a road showdown with the Seattle Seahawks (5-3). The only opponent left on the schedule with a sub-.500 record is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6).

"We've got all NFC teams left, which is a good thing for us to make some headway in the division and certainly in the conference," Ryan said. "But none of that matters. All that matters is finding a way to get it done versus Dallas this week, a team that is very, very talented."

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