Preseason predictions would have the Atlanta Falcons heading for a losing record. And, another season without a playoff appearance.
Good thing that was only a prediction.
Instead, the Falcons are NFC South division champions. And, with a win on Sunday over the New Orleans Saints, can claim the NFC’s second seed. Not to mention, a first-round bye in the playoffs—which begin next weekend.
A major reason for Atlanta’s success this season, featuring the Falcons at 10-5 record, is due to the play of quarterback Matt Ryan. A first-round pick (2008) by Atlanta out of Boston College, the 31-year-old is in the midst of one of the best statistical seasons of his career.
In his second year under Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Ryan has displayed his grasp on the offensive philosophy. And in doing so, is overcoming a rough 2015 campaign. One in which Atlanta would only average 21.8 points per game. One in which Ryan would toss just 21 touchdowns to 16 interceptions.
Ryan’s play has been so impressive, in fact, that he should be garnering more attention in respects to the Most Valuable Player award. Here’s his case:
This season, Ryan has thrown for 4,613 yards with 34 touchdowns, leading the Falcons to the second-ranked offense in the NFL (412.5 YPG). He would set an NFL record this season by throwing a touchdown pass to 13 different players. Thirteen. That’s 1-3. Another strong point to Ryan’s game this season has been his ability to score touchdowns in the red zone. In 2015, the Falcons would struggle mightily in the red zone. But this season the Falcons are scoring a bevy of points—a league-best 33.5 per game.
As a result, the Falcons have a chance Sunday to clinch the second seed with a win over rival New Orleans. The Saints boast the top-rated passing offense and total offense in the NFL.
Yet despite his success in leading Atlanta to a division championship, MVP talk for Ryan refuses to catch on. Instead, the majority of said talk surrounds New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who would miss the first four games of the 2016 season through suspension. Another component of Ryan not getting more MVP attention relates to playing in Atlanta. Their amount of national attention seems to be lacking.
Instead, the majority of the conversation surrounds New England and Dallas. Or rather, two of the more popular franchises in the league.
Still, despite the lack of attention, Ryan deserves MVP consideration. The Falcons are playing great football offensively, and he’s the cornerstone of that success.