It’s odd, isn’t it? The fact that the Atlanta Falcons started 4-1, looked to be heading to another season going 8-8, or worse, and now they have won the NFC South, with a chance to secure a 1st round bye with a win Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Last year, the Falcons started 6-1, and lost 7 out of their last 9, en route to missing the playoffs for the third straight season.
This year, they have a chance to make some noise in the playoffs. Leading the charge is 2016 NFL MVP, Matt Ryan. He has always posted gaudy yardage stats, averaging over 4,500 passing yards/year over the last 6 years, with one game to go in 2016. What he has done differently this year is protect the football, throwing only 7 INTs in 15 games this year, a career low. Add a 69.5 completion percentage (3rd among starting QBs), 34 TDs (3rd among starting QBs) and a league high 115.5 passer rating, that ranks fourth all time, among quarterbacks who have started at least 15 games.
Not a lot of NFL fans are considering the Atlanta Falcons a real super bowl contender. Nor are they considering Matt Ryan the clear-cut NFL MVP. What is being held against him? Every other candidate has something against them. Aaron Rodgers posted a 56 completion percentage, 219 yards/gm, 9 TDs and 3 INTs through the first 4 games of the year. Tom Brady missed the first four games of the year, due to his suspension. Ezekiel Elliot is having a terrific rookie season, there is no doubt about that. People seem to forget that the Dallas Cowboys ranked 5th in rushing yards/carry last year, though. If any of the Dallas rookies were to win MVP, it would have to be Dak Prescott, but he has been rather inconsistent this year, as a rookie quarterback should be.
These are not knocks on the players I just mentioned. To be considered an MVP candidate, in itself, is a terrific honor, and all of those players are having outstanding seasons. Matt Ryan does not have a flaw in his resume this year, especially if the Atlanta Falcons are able to secure the number 2 seed in the NFC. If there is a flaw, it is that no player on an 11-5 team has won the MVP since Rich Gannon won the award in 2002. How is that Ryan’s fault though?
It’s not. The Falcons defense has forced Matt Ryan to be beyond exceptional in order to win the NFC South crown. The defense ranks 23rd in yards allowed/game, 25th in points allowed/game, 25th in 3rd down percentage and are allowing the 4th most 1st downs in the league. Yet, they still have a chance to become the second seed in the NFC, because of Matt Ryan. He is the leader of the offense that has scored on more than half of their possessions, becoming the third team since 1991 to accomplish that feat.
What about Julio Jones? Doesn’t that put him down a couple points? While it is clear that having a wide receiver, with the size and skill set of Julio Jones, would help Matty Ice. His passer rating and completion percentage are both higher, while targeting other receiving options. Another great offensive stat? He has set up the Falcons with a lead heading into the fourth quarter for 14 consecutive games. Another great offensive stat? They are 15th all time in points scored thus far, and if they can replicate the 45 points they scored last time the face the Saints, this Sunday, they will be tied for 6th all time. One last stat for you. The Falcons have scored at least 30 points ten times this year. In those 10 games, they are 9-1. In the other 5 games, they are 1-4.
This isn’t about the Falcons winning the Super Bowl. They have the talent on offense, but a porous defense usually is the downfall of playoff teams. This is about Matt Ryan, who deserves to be the 2016 NFL MVP. His body of work, throughout the entirety of the season, has been beyond impressive, and deserves recognition. Congratulations, Matt Ryan, you are the 2016 NFL MVP. Or at least, you deserve to be.