Who should win the NFL MVP?
Matt Ryan - Quarterback- Atlanta Falcons
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In recent years, the NFL MVP race has had a clear-cut winner, such as Peyton Manning’s 55 touchdown 2013 campaign or Adrian Peterson’s 2,097 rushing yards in the 2012 season. I believe this trend continues this year, as Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan wins the 2016 MVP award by a landslide.
In Kyle Shanahan’s second year as the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator, Ryan threw for a career-high 4,944 yards (second in the NFL), career-high 38 touchdowns (second in the NFL), career-high 9.26 yards per passing attempt (first in the NFL) and career-high 117.1 QB rating (first in the NFL) while also completing a career-high 69.9 percent of his passes (third in the NFL) and throwing for a career-low 7 interceptions. He hit an astounding 13 different receivers for touchdowns in 2016.
Ryan led to Falcons to a 11-5 record and the #2 seed in the NFC, and his elevated play is one of the biggest reasons for the team’s ability to stay relevant. Ryan has thrown for over 200 passing yards in every regular season game since November 10, 2013 (a total of 55 games), while the Falcons offense scored 540 points, easily the highest total in the league this year, as well tied for the seventh-highest total in NFL history.
The biggest arguments against have been New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (who missed 4 games due to a suspension), Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (who missed a game due to a broken leg), Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (whose best season was in 2011), and the Dallas Cowboys’ rookie sensations, quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott.
While Brady set the record for best touchdown to interception ratio in NFL history while leading New England to the best record in the league, he only played in 12 games and the team went 3-1 without him. Their defense was third against the run and were number 12 against the pass, and Brady’s stats don’t touch Ryan’s in terms of QB rating, touchdowns and passing yards, and completion percentage even when projected across a full 16-game season.
Derek Carr, while leading the Oakland Raiders to the playoffs for the first time since 2002, did not statistically perform at the level of quarterbacks like Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Ryan. Carr was 15th in the NFL in completion percentage (63.8), 14th in passing yards (3,937) and tied for seventh in passing touchdowns (28). While his quarterback play was the best Oakland has had since Rich Gannon, he simply did not perform at the level Ryan did.
While Aaron Rodgers paced the league in passing touchdowns (40), he was ninth in completion percentage (65.7), fourth in passing yards (4,428) and 14th in yards per passing attempt (7.26). There were games that Rodgers simply didn’t show up in this year, much like Drew Brees despite elite stats. Ryan was more consistent and had career numbers that Rodgers hasn’t touched in years.
While Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys both performed extraordinarily, Prescott was not asked to do much and only passed for 3,667 yards and 23 touchdowns even though he was fourth in completion percentage (67.8) and threw the second-fewest interceptions among quarterbacks who started more than 75 percent of the season (4). Despite going 13-3 as the starter, Prescott had a ton of support from his stellar offensive line and running back.
Elliott posted incredible stats (1,631 yards, 5.1 average per carry, 15 rushing touchdowns), but he didn’t lead the league in rushing touchdowns, average per carry, and he fumbled five times. He also has the best offensive line in the league blocking for him in an offense that allowed Darren McFadden to rush for over 1,000 yards last season. In addition to this, the last four non-quarterbacks to win the MVP were Adrian Peterson (who rushed for over 2,000 yards in 2012), Shaun Alexander (who broke the rushing touchdowns record while rushing for 1,880 yards) LaDainian Tomlinson (who broke the rushing touchdowns record the year after Alexander while rushing for 1,815 yards) and Marshall Faulk who had 2,189 total yards and 26 total touchdowns in 2000. Elliott’s number simply don’t touch those.
With all that being said, Matt Ryan should win the race pretty significantly. The Falcons offense was one of the best all time in 2016, and Ryan was the single biggest reason for it.