(For the second time this season, our fantasy guru better known as Saucy T has left his confines of fantasy football analysis to drop some quarterback knowledge on us. Last time, we argued if the Cowboys should stick with Dak or turn the keys to the car over to Romo. This time, he looks at the three-horse MVP race consisting of three quarterbacks.
I specifically asked Tim to write this piece as a Falcons fan. To see the debate through a Falcons fans eyes really presses the issue, because the numbers speak for themselves. So without further ado…)
THE 2017 NFL MVP RACE
Tim Mason | Fantasy Football/ NFL analyst
As a Falcons fan, this season has been a pleasant surprise. The Falcons have surpassed my optimistic expectations, and the biggest reason why is the MVP-level play of their quarterback, Matt Ryan. For me he should be the clear cut winner of this year’s award, and the stats back it up.
The Most Valuable Player race this year has been as wide open as I can ever remember, but seems to be down to five main candidates as the regular season wraps up: Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Ryan. I think Dak and Zeke have been great, and the Cowboys have the best record in the NFC, but I think most would agree that Dallas’ offensive line is their true MVP which probably takes both guys out of the race. They will receive votes, but aren’t a real threat to win it. That leaves us with what most experts agree is a three-horse race between Brady, Rodgers, and Ryan.
Matt Ryan is the new kid on the block when it comes to being in the MVP discussion as it seems Brady and Rodgers could be in the discussion every year. Don’t let that fact take away from what he has accomplished this season. Ryan has led the NFL’s highest scoring offense this year to 33.8 points per game while throwing touchdown passes to an NFL record 13 different receivers. I am a die hard Falcons fan, and even I would struggle to name 13 options we have to score receiving touchdowns. Some might say, “Well he has Julio Jones, the NFL’s best wide receiver”, and while this is true, Julio missed two games and the offense didn’t miss a beat throwing to castoffs like Aldrick Robinson and Taylor Gabriel. So after we admit that Ryan’s play has put him into the same class as Brady and Rodgers this season, we can look at them head to head.
First let’s look at how Matt Ryan compares to Aaron Rodgers this season, because I believe it’s an easier argument to win for Matt Ryan. Rodgers did throw for two more touchdowns than Ryan, but he also attempted 76 more passes, and Ryan still bested him in yards by 500. Rodgers seems to get a lot of credit for doing so much with so little. While it’s true the Packers don’t have much of a running game, they do boast one of the best wide receiver trios in all of football in Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams.
Rodgers also gets credit for calling his shot and playing lights out for six straight games to win the NFC North, but Matt Ryan has been just as hot. Over the last six weeks Rodgers completed 71 percent of his passes for 1667 yards, 15 touchdowns, and no interceptions, while Ryan has completed 72 percent of his passes for 1697 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Those numbers are very close, and Matt Ryan DIDN’T have the same slow start that Rodgers did. Even after doing a discount double check on these numbers, Matt Ryan has a clear advantage over Aaron Rodgers in the MVP race.
Next let’s look at how Ryan’s season stacks up against Tom Brady. I know the biggest knock on Brady this year will be that he only played in 12 games, and the Patriots were 3-1 without him, but the Patriots are clearly a different team with Tom Terrific at the helm, so I’m going to leave that part of it alone. I’m sure some voters will not vote for him because of the suspension, just as some will vote for him to see the NFL have to give him the award after suspending him, but that’s not relevant to me.
I’m looking at the numbers. In 12 games Brady was phenomenal. He threw for 3,554 yards, 28 touchdowns, and just TWO interceptions. That would have put him on pace for 4,739/37/3 if he had played 16 games… but he didn’t play 16 games. Matt Ryan DID play 16 games and actually bested that pace in every category but interceptions, as he threw for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. So as great as Brady was for 12 games, Matt Ryan was even better for a full 16 games. The advantage again goes to Matty Ice.
I believe Matt Ryan’s consistency of greatness this year should get him his first MVP award, and as I’ve shown the numbers back me up. We all know the MVP isn’t just about numbers, it tends to be a popularity contest as well sometimes. Matt Ryan isn’t close to Brady and Rodgers in popularity, and maybe that will cost him the award, but one thing the voters tend to like as much as popularity is history.
So to close, I’ll give you a couple historic numbers when it comes to MVP voting. Matt Ryan finished the season completing 69.9 % of his passes. Only four quarterbacks have ever completed a higher percentage, and Ryan did that while throwing for the fourth highest yards per attempt in NFL since 1970 at 9.3 yards per attempt (to put it in perspective Aaron Rodgers threw for 9.2 yards per attempt in his 2011 MVP season). Matt Ryan will also become only the fifth QB ever to start an entire season and finish with a QB Rating better than 115 (Ryan finished at 117.1). The other four (2011 Rodgers-122.5, 2004 Peyton-121.1, 2007 Brady-117.2, 2013 Peyton-115.1) all won the MVP those years.
Aaron Rodgers has had an amazing season, and Tom Brady has played like an MVP for 12 games, but Matt Ryan has played like the MVP for the entire season. After looking at the history and the numbers he’s put up this year, it’s easy to see that this year’s NFL MVP belongs to Matty Ice.