Though the Falcons flew under the radar for most of Dan Quinn's second season as head coach, Ryan produced every week and led the league's top scoring offense. He's the reason the Falcons finished atop the NFC South and are playing in the NFL's biggest game. Matt Ryan was much more than what he did statistically. He was able to orchestrate Kyle Shanahan's vision for the offense and became the leader. His mechanics and footwork improved last offseason, and he cut down on interceptions while displaying better accuracy. We saw all of Ryan's improvements show throughout the entirety of the 2016 season. I had been pushing Aaron Rodgers for the last few weeks, but it's hard to go against Ryan now that the Falcons are in the Super Bowl. (Yes, I'm kinda cheating here, as the AP voters don't have the benefit of allowing the postseason to play out. Sue me.) Ryan has been dominant all year, taking his game to a higher level. Matt Ryan led the league's No. 1 scoring offense (by a long shot) in the regular season. Atlanta scored 71 more points than any other team in the regular season. The Falcons QB couldn't be stopped. Matt Ryan and Tom Brady enjoyed statistically dominant seasons. Aaron Rodgers' final six weeks were dreamy and iconic. Ezekiel Elliott gave the Cowboys' offense and defense a huge lift, leading Dallas to the No. 1 seed. But Derek Carr got my AP vote. He meant everything to a Raiders team that was in major need of a great player and leadership at quarterback.
Oakland morphed from an annual loser to a dynamite, clutch contender because of Carr, who led the Raiders to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. That's kind of a huge deal. His talent and performance under pressure gave the team's culture a boost it desperately required. It's still so disappointing that he was lost for the season in Week 16. Sure would've loved to have seen what the Carr-led Raiders could've done this postseason.
Looking back, the entire season screams Derek Carr, MVP. The MVP award frequently goes to a quarterback, and nobody played the position better than Matt Ryan from Week 1 through Week 17. After having a down year in 2015, Ryan came back better than ever. He finished with a 69.9 completion percentage and a 117.1 passer rating this season -- playing multiple games without a healthy Julio Jones. With this 16-game performance, I just don't see how he can't win MVP this year. Matt Ryan should be named MVP of the league Saturday night. While Tom Brady missed the first four games of the season and Aaron Rodgers caught fire down the stretch, Ryan was consistent all season long. Ryan also posted a league-high 117.1 passer rating. Here's a stat for you that has actual meaning: The Falcons finished third in passing yards -- despite throwing the 26th-most passes. Incredible. Put another way: Ryan led the league in yards per attempt (9.3). The fact that Atlanta was the top scoring team only helps his MVP case. The toughest choice to make. Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers are legit candidates. So is the entire Dallas O-line, for that matter. I went with Tom Brady because he was more consistent than Rodgers. Rodgers was playing at an MVP level down the stretch, but he struggled early in the season. I picked Brady over Ryan because the Falcons QB has the benefit of playing with more explosive weapons on offense, as Rob Gronkowski missed much of the season. Brady's 28:2 TD-to-INT ratio is pretty hard to fathom. After what we've seen from Matt Ryan this year, is anyone else even in the running? Much maligned after a less-than-spectacular 2015, Matt Ryan orchestrated an incredible turnaround to reach career bests, both on a personal and a team level. Expectations have been sky high since he entered the NFL, and it all appears to be coming together for him in Year 9. It's a new day for Ryan and a new day in Atlanta. Tom Brady had the most efficient passing season in NFL history with 28 touchdowns to two interceptions -- and the Patriots had only one loss with Brady under center. If Brady would've played in the first four games, he still would've had one loss this season. With as good as Brady is statistically, the amount of wins he earns every year is what sets him apart. A second year in Kyle Shanahan's offense seemed to make a world of difference for Matt Ryan, who frequently erased a questionable defense to lead his team to the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Aaron Rodgers! Only because I would love the hilarity of him having to accept the award during NFL Honors as Matt Ryan readies himself for the Super Bowl the next day. But is there really anybody against Ryan at this point? I know it's a regular-season honor, but most of you were using his previous lack of playoff success against him. Matt Ryan had a career year in his second season with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. It seemed that Ryan could do almost anything he wanted when the ball was in his hands. As great as Matt Ryan was, Tom Brady made more "wow" throws and was asked to do more for his offense. In so many ways, Brady is the Patriots' offense. Ryan has played like the MVP all season. Look at the numbers: 4,944 passing yards, 69.9 completion percentage, 38 TDs, seven INTs and a 117.1 passer rating. And he led his team to an 11-5 record during his career season. If you take Matty Ice off this team, the Falcons don't even make it close to this far. Ryan's consistent greatness throughout the season earns him my vote over Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.