Pressure point: Falcons

Examining who faces the most challenging season for the Atlanta Falcons and why.

From ownership through the front office and coaching staff and into every corner of the locker room, the Falcons firmly believe Matt Ryan has everything it takes to be an elite quarterback. He’s a natural leader, works as hard as anyone and has won a lot of games during his first four seasons.

The problem is that every one of those wins has come in the regular season. The lack of a single postseason victory has a lot of people on the outside doubting whether Ryan really is the long-term answer for Atlanta. If Ryan goes a fifth season without a playoff victory, some of that doubt may creep into the Falcons' own building.

There have been excuses -- most of them valid -- for Ryan's inability to win in the postseason. But those excuses are disappearing. The Falcons brought in Julio Jones last year to be a deep threat, and they’re overhauling their offensive line to give Ryan more time to find receivers down the field. They also have brought in new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who supposedly is installing a system that’s tailored to get the most out of Ryan’s ability.

The Falcons are going out of their way to give Ryan everything he needs to succeed. Now, with his current contract set to expire in 2013, it’s up to Ryan to take the next step. If he can win a playoff game, a contract extension is sure to follow and the doubts will disappear.