Matt Ryan produced an underwhelming campaign in the 2015 season, with pundits suggesting that he fallen out of the top-10 bracket of quarterbacks in the NFL.
The Falcons started the season brightly with a 5-0 record, but fell away to miss the playoffs entirely, ending 8-8. He produced one of the worst passer ratings of his career, while throwing for 21 touchdowns to 16 interceptions – committing a total 21 turnovers over the course of the term.
However, the 31-year-old has enjoyed a resurgence this term, recording the best season of his career. His form has propelled the Falcons into their first Super Bowl since the 1998 campaign and has strong odds to claims his first MVP award, being backed at -1200 with TopBet sportsbook.
We’ll now break down where the quarterback has shined this season and what could potentially hold him back from winning the award.
Ryan has been outstanding from the off this season, beginning with a fine performance in his side’s defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He threw for two touchdowns and for over 300 yards against the Bucs, although it was not enough to secure the victory for his team. However, his display was a sign of things to come for Atlanta to kickstart a four-game winning streak.
Without Ryan’s presence the Falcons may have in deep trouble in these fixtures as they were involved in shootouts against the Oakland Raiders, New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers. The Raiders were one of the strongest teams in the NFL this term until an injury to Derek Carr derailed their season.
Ryan outgunned Carr on the road with a three-touchdown display, leading his team down the field late in the game to secure the win. The 31-year-old also needed to be on top form against the Saints and Panthers, guiding his side over the 40-point mark in both matches to secure victories.
His arguably best display of the season came against the Denver Broncos on the road. He managed to play a clean match against one of the best defenses in the NFL, enabling the Falcons to secure a narrow win.
Atlanta were handed a tough schedule of facing the Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks in back-to-back weeks, but the quarterback’s performance did not dip.
However, a late pass interference call did not go the way of Ryan and Julio Jones before an Earl Thomas interception ended their charge on the final drive, ending in their second defeat of the term.
The Falcons were handed a late bye week, which came 10 games into the season. The time off allowed Ryan to settle back into a groove after a series underwhelming performances midway through the season, including his worst display against the Philadelphia Eagles.
He was on form in a two-touchdown outing against a stern pass-rush in the form of the Arizona Cardinals. The win over the Cardinals got the Falcons back on track, and although he was on song again in their clash with the Kansas City Chiefs leading his side back late in the game.
Ryan threw a late interception on a two-point conversion that allowed Andy Reid’s men to secure the victory at the Georgia Dome.
However, in the final four games of the season Ryan was simply outstanding as he drove his side to the second seed in the NFC Conference. His passing rating did not dip under 120 as he carved apart the defenses of the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints.
The 31-year-old threw 11 touchdowns to zero interceptions, guiding the Falcons over the 40-point mark twice and into the 30s in their final two matches of the term. His performances ensured that his side ended the regular season on a high and taking them into the playoffs with momentum.
It’s hard to argue against Ryan’s case against winning his first MVP, although there have been outstanding performances in the league this season from Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
Both players do not have as strong a passer rating, but Rodgers threw for more touchdowns, notching 40 over the course of the season, and was playing with one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
Brady missed the first four games of the season due to his deflategate suspension, but still managed to throw for 28 touchdowns and just two interceptions in his 12 matches. The 39-year-old lost just one game as the club’s starter, guiding his side to a 14-2 record and the number one seed in the AFC.
Ryan didn’t have many poor games in the campaign, but he did put forward underwhelming performances against the Eagles and the San Diego Chargers, resulting in defeats for the Falcons. He mustered just a 54.5% completion rate against the Eagles as his side put only 15 points on the board.
The 31-year-old also cost his team the game against the Chiefs when his late interception on the two-point conversion was run back by Eric Berry allowing the AFC West side to clinch the win.
Ryan’s performances on the whole have been the main reason why his side are competing in the Super Bowl, although the award does not take into account post-season play.
If it did, he would most certainly have secured the title after carving apart the Seattle Seahawks’ and Green Bay Packers’ defenses with relative ease.
It would be shocking to see anyone else named in the award ahead of him, especially since his transformation from last season when he struggled down the stretch.
Ryan could become the first quarterback to win the MVP award and the Super Bowl in the same season since Kurt Warner achieved the feat in the 1999 campaign. His master of his offense, coolness under pressure and deadly accuracy should see him rise into the top-five status.
The 31-year-old will only hope that he does not crack under the strain in the Vince Lombardi trophy game like his rival Cam Newton did last season in Super Bowl 50.