Before the season started Matt Ryan was 70/1 to win the 2016 regular season MVP. His opposite number on Sunday, Aaron Rodgers, was a mere 4/1 looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2015.
Don’t look now but the Atlanta Falcons signal caller is now just 12/1, ahead of Rodgers, with Las Vegas odds makers to take home the title for the first time in his career.
It’s hard to imagine that before the season started Ryan would be taken seriously as an MVP candidate with the likes of Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and the aforementioned Rodgers, to name just a few of the quarterbacks alone, all ahead of him in the pecking order.
However, at the halfway point of the season the man nicknamed Matty Ice has outplayed all but one of those guys – yes that stand alone guy he has not ousted yet is the evergreen Brady who looks as good as ever and making up for lost time after serving his four game ban.
Sunday night’s 33-32 victory over the Green Bay Packers turned into the biggest statement game of the season, perhaps for any team. Many predicted a walkover victory for the Falcons whom, on paper, faced a Packers team with an offense in disarray and a secondary that would have had Julio Jones salivating at the prospect of potentially another 300-yard game.
Instead, Ryan and Rodgers went toe to toe in an epic. Exchanging ridiculous throws and orchestrating outstanding offensive drives. The best was saved for last when the Falcons QB lead an 11 play 75-yard go ahead touchdown beauty. Ryan managed the clock expertly leaving Rodgers just over 30 seconds to pull another rabbit out of the hat – he couldn’t – and Ryan did it all with Jones handicapped due to an ankle injury sustained in the first half.
Matty Ice instead turned to Mohamed Sanu and the go-ahead score was an outstanding play in both the call and execution with the Falcons matching Sanu up with linebacker Jake Ryan before his namesake dropped a dime over his head into the waiting hands of the former Cincinnati Bengals pass catcher.
The game winning drive alone cemented Ryan’s MVP credentials but it brought a fitting end to what the 31-year-old has been doing throughout the first half of the season – playing outstanding football.
Ryan shredded the Legion of Boom for 335 yards and three touchdowns in week six, a game they should have won in Seattle. In week five he beat Wade Phillips’ destructive Denver defense. Ryan is putting on shows against all types of teams. Ones built around dominate defense and Sunday’s victory was a straight shootout.
While a 5-3 record does not scream MVP candidate the Falcons would easily be 7-1 with that tough loss in Seattle and the heartbreaking overtime defeat to the San Diego Chargers. Ryan’s schedule is a mixed bag heading into the second half of the season. Favourable matchups against the Tampa Bay Bucs and San Francisco 49ers are balanced with some tough tussles against the Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints and a Carolina Panthers team which looks to a have got over its bout of offensive amnesia.
The ninth year man leads the NFL in passing yards at the half way stage with 2,636 and has tossed 19 scores – also a league high – with just four picks, tied second lowest for QBs with at least 250 pass attempts. His numbers are at MVP levels, if Rodgers, Cam Newton or Brady has those numbers after just eight games we anoint them the Most Valuable Player elect. The 5-3 record makes Ryan an unsexy pick.
If Ryan is to be crowed the MVP of the 2016 season he will have to go better than 5-3 in the second half of the season. With the way the guy down in New England is playing it may be that Matty Ice has to win out to win his first MVP title but the drive against Green Bay showed he is more than capable of winning that crown.