The statistics point to Matt Ryan being on his way to winning his first MVP award.
Every year, as the regular season concludes and the playoffs begin, one question is debated among football fans: Who should win the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award?
Longtime mainstays in the MVP conversation like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have phenomenal résumés and deserve strong consideration. Brady guided his Patriots to the best record in the league at 14-2 while throwing 28 touchdowns and only two picks.
Meanwhile, Rodgers led the Packers to a six-game winning streak to close out the regular season en route to a division title. During the win streak, Rodgers threw for 15 scores with zero interceptions.
However, a newcomer to the MVP discussion, Matt Ryan, had the best season of them all and deserves the prestigious award.
Ryan led the Falcons to the highest scoring offense in 2016, and it wasn’t even close. The Falcons scored a total of 540 points during the regular season, good for eighth best all time, according to SportingCharts. Meanwhile, the next best offensive team, the New Orleans Saints, clocked in at 469 points, 71 points shy of Atlanta. If the Saints continued scoring at the same rate they had been all season (29.3 points per game), they would need nearly two and a half more games to catch the Falcons. Of the 10 highest-scoring teams of all time prior to 2016, six of those teams’ quarterbacks went on to win the MVP award.
Along with the elevated performance of his offense due to the emergence of reliable number two options WR Mohamed Sanu and RB Tevin Coleman, Ryan is enjoying an MVP-caliber season himself. He leads the league in passer rating (117.1) and yards per pass attempt (9.26), ranking second in touchdown passes (38) and passing yards (4,944), all while being the sixth most sacked quarterback this season, as per Pro Football Reference.
Even through advanced metrics, Ryan outperformed his peers. According to Football Outsiders, Ryan led the league in both DYAR and DVOA, which measure a quarterback’s overall value and value per play, respectively. He also edged out Tom Brady in QBR, leading the league with a rating of 83.4.
Along with his jaw-dropping stats, Ryan has been the most consistent quarterback in the league. In his worst game of the season, at Philadelphia, Ryan posted a passer rating of 78.7, which was still a better passer rating than Blake Bortles, Cam Newton, and Brock Osweiler had on the full season. In fact, no other starting quarterback had a better worst game of the season than Matt Ryan.
Additionally, Ryan has performed well under pressure. According to Pro Football Reference, Ryan has performed exceptionally well on third down, completing 71.2% of his passes and throwing seven touchdowns to zero interceptions. On third/fourth down and short, Ryan posted a 131.1 passer rating while completing 78.6% of his passes for three scores and zero picks. While tied or trailing, Ryan has completed 71% of his passes for 21 touchdowns and only three picks. When the game is on the line, “Matty Ice” comes in clutch.
A strong argument can be made for both Rodgers and Brady, but both have glaring flaws. Though Rodgers was arguably the best player in the second half of the season, his first half was rocky. Through 10 games, the Pack were a disappointing 4-6 with many questioning Rodgers’ leadership and coach Mike McCarthy’s future. At the time, Rodgers had six games with a passer rating under 100, the second-lowest completion percentage of his career, and was on pace for most interceptions thrown since 2010. Even though he went on a tear in the last six games, his first half performance cannot be overlooked in MVP consideration.
Though Brady played phenomenally throughout the season, his résumé has one major flaw: his four-game suspension. No player in the history of the league has ever won the MVP award while only starting 12 games. Even without Brady, the Patriots went 3-1 with a backup, who had only attempted 31 passes in his career, and a third-string rookie. Evidently, the Patriots are a great team without Brady or a proven quarterback, so his value is diminished.
In today’s pass-heavy league, quarterbacks rule the day. Of the past nine MVP winners, eight of them have been signal callers and the other was Adrian Peterson following his incredible 2,000-yard rushing season. So it’s safe to say that the MVP race will come down to Ryan, Rodgers, and Brady. Though both Brady and Rodgers are household names, both had major weaknesses in their 2016 campaigns. Ryan was by far the most consistent and performed well under pressure.
Matt Ryan may not be the flashiest or the most popular quarterback, but he was the Most Valuable Player in 2016.
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