Matt Ryan Is the 2016 NFL MVP
by Scott Kacsmar
Really, this much debate over an individual award in the ultimate team game?
The reason we make such a big deal about the NFL's Most Valuable Player award is that the winner is usually one of the biggest stories of that particular season. Make no doubt about it -- this award is less about a popularity contest and more about acknowledging an easy-to-tell story of greatness from that season. Whether or not you agree with Cam Newton winning the MVP in 2015, the 14-0 start by his Carolina Panthers was one of the dominant headlines throughout the season.
Most MVP seasons are obvious from an early point in the year because of the record-setting performances that speak for themselves. Think of the dominant quarterback seasons from Dan Marino in 1984, Peyton Manning in 2004 and 2013, and Tom Brady in 2007. When a running back has won the award in the last two decades, it's been for a nice milestone like 2,000 rushing yards (achieved by Barry Sanders in 1997, Terrell Davis in 1998, and Adrian Peterson in 2012), or the breaking of the single-season touchdown record (done by Marshall Faulk in 2000, Shaun Alexander in 2005, and LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006).
The voters like an easy, obvious candidate -- which has made the 2016 MVP race so difficult. One candidate was suspended for the first four games of the season. Two more candidates are rookies who share the same backfield behind the league's best offensive line. Another candidate is trying to run the table to make the playoffs after he drew a lot of heat for performance below his usual standard during a 4-6 start. Two more candidates are using a record number of fourth-quarter comebacks for two of the league's usual doormats as their main argument -- and one of those just broke his leg, while the other may fail to qualify for the postseason.
Then there is the candidate who should be running away with the award as we head into Week 17, yet has garnered very little attention throughout the last four months.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is the best choice for the 2016 MVP award, and it is about time that his story gets the attention it deserves.
The MVP Case for Matt Ryan
Let's be honest. The main argument working against Matt Ryan for MVP is that his name is Matt Ryan. He's not Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, and his reputation in NFL circles, at best, has been "poor man's Peyton Manning." However, in his ninth season, Ryan is producing at a level just below what these other quarterbacks achieved at their peaks. That is lofty company to say the least, given the caliber of those MVP seasons.
The most statistically dominant quarterback on the league's best offense is always a strong MVP candidate, if not the favorite, and no one fits that bill better in 2016 than Ryan. He leads the NFL in passing yards per attempt (9.26), yards per completion (13.3), and touchdown pass percentage (6.8 percent), and his 115.5 passer rating would rank fifth in NFL history. If you scoff at passer rating, then Ryan's 8.90 adjusted net yards per pass attempt is also currently the fifth-highest season in league history.
Ryan's Falcons lead the NFL in scoring (502 points), rank first in offensive DVOA (24.8%), and average a league-best 3.01 points per drive. Only two other offenses (2007 Patriots and 2011 Packers) since 1997 have averaged at least 3.0 points per drive.
You could easily make the argument that Ryan is quietly having one of the best passing seasons in NFL history. Of course, one could also argue that passing stats are inflated in today's era, but we have plenty of stats that adjust for that context. Also, to win the MVP award, Ryan just has to be the most deserving candidate in 2016. The argument on where his season stacks up all-time is entirely different and more appropriate for the offseason.
Pro Football Reference has an index for adjusted net yards per pass attempt that adjusts for era. Ryan is currently one of 10 quarterbacks to have an index above 140, where 100 is considered average. Among the previous nine quarterbacks, seven won the MVP award that season. The exceptions: Nick Foles lost out to a record-setting Peyton Manning in 2013 for obvious reasons, and Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien quarterbacked the most dominant team in the DVOA era in the 1991 Redskins.
Of course, some will argue intangibles over statistics when it comes to a quarterback's true value. That is fine, but it is also undeniable that a high volume of successful plays that put points on the board are very valuable to a team. We have plenty of metrics to show this as well. After all, the "V" in DVOA stands for value. Threading the needle on a 15-yard pass on third-and-12 should have more value than slapping a teammate on the butt to show your "leadership," but I know that is preaching to the choir here.
Advanced stats love Ryan's season as well. He is pulling off the trifecta of leading the league in passing DYAR, passing DVOA and ESPN's Total QBR. In fact, when you compare Ryan and the other 2016 quarterback candidates to the 21 quarterback MVP seasons since 1989 in advanced stats, Ryan's season holds up extremely well. I also included Carson Palmer's 2015 season to show that the voters quite arguably got things wrong a year ago by going with Newton, who received 48 votes to Palmer's one. Let's not repeat that mistake by denying the best quarterback since Week 1 this season again.
|Quarterback MVP Winner: Advanced Stat Rankings (ESPN & FO)|
|Year||Quarterback||QBR||Rk||Pts Added||Rk||PASS DYAR||Rk||PASS DVOA||Rk||Pass YPA||Rk||Yds/Dr||Rk||Pts/Dr||Rk|
|Year||Quarterback||QBR||Rk||Pts Added||Rk||PASS DYAR||Rk||PASS DVOA||Rk||Pass YPA||Rk||Yds/Dr||Rk||Pts/Dr||Rk|
Note: "Pts Added" is an ESPN stat (explained here) related to QBR and points added above that of an average quarterback. The drive stats include all drives for a team in that season regardless of who was at quarterback. No, this is not ideal, but it's the best we can do in a late-season time crunch for research.
Only a No. 2 ranking in yards per drive is preventing a clean sweep of Ryan leading each category. Before Newton's 2015, all seven MVP winners in the QBR era were first or second in QBR and Pts Added, and every MVP winner since 1989 was in the top four in passing DYAR. A dozen MVP seasons were first in passing DVOA, and eight MVP winners pulled off the trifecta of leading in DYAR, DVOA and YPA. Ten times since 1997 the No. 1 offense in points per drive produced an MVP-winning quarterback.
If voters uphold the usual standards for an MVP quarterback season, then Ryan should be the obvious choice at this point. He would really have to lay an egg at home against the Saints to not finish on top in so many key categories.
What Is Ryan Doing Differently?
Ryan has been one of the league's better quarterbacks since his rookie season, but career years come in a variety of ways. After missing the playoffs for three years in a row and suffering arguably his worst season yet in 2015, there was no hype for Ryan entering 2016. Early hype is usually a prerequisite for a successful MVP campaign. Ryan had to prove he could effectively run Kyle Shanahan's offense in his second year under the offensive coordinator and head coach Dan Quinn. Atlanta bolstered its lineup with two Cleveland players in center Alex Mack and wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, while also bringing over wide receiver Mohamed Sanu from Cincinnati. These have been fine additions, but Ryan has mostly been working with a familiar cast from the offense that finished 23rd in DVOA a year ago.
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The improvement to the best offense in football has been spearheaded by Ryan, who has shown more mobility and elusiveness this season. Hey, if he is the poor man's Peyton Manning, then this makes sense. In his ninth season in 2006, Manning also improved his mobility and footwork to make plays under pressure following that disappointing playoff loss to Pittsburgh the previous season. Manning's 2006 ended with his first Super Bowl ring, and Ryan would certainly love to repeat that part as well, but let's focus on his numbers.
Ryan's 2016 sack rate is the highest of his career (6.7 percent), and it's not like he has turned into a "hold the ball forever gunslinger" in 2016. I am confident that when we publish our finalized pressure study in the offseason, his pressure rate will be the highest of his career and the highest of any of the MVP candidates this season. Ryan has done very well without an offensive line as strong as the likes of Dallas and Oakland.
Ryan has also done a masterful job of distributing the ball this season. In fact, Ryan is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw a touchdown pass to 13 different players in a season. This record would be everywhere this week if a more popular quarterback did it. Taylor Gabriel (six) even leads the team in touchdown catches over Julio Jones (five). The yards are better distributed too. In 2015, Jones had 1,871 receiving yards while no other Atlanta player surpassed 657 yards, and only five Falcons had at least 200 receiving yards. This season, Jones has 1,313 yards, but nine Falcons have at least 200 receiving yards. So it really has been more of a team effort with Ryan the master conductor.
Like a great Akira Kurosawa film, Ryan is running a "high and low" passing offense this season. As Vincent Verhei showed in this week's Quick Reads, Ryan has the best DVOA on short passes (thrown within 5 yards of line of scrimmage) and the best DVOA on bombs (thrown 25-plus yards past the line of scrimmage). That success down the field is a big part of the reason why Ryan is turning in one of the greatest seasons ever in one of the game's most important statistics.
Ryan's Historic Consistency
This season, Ryan is 18th in pass attempts (498), but still third in passing yards (4,613). That is the very definition of efficiency. Not only is Ryan leading the league in passing yards per attempt (YPA) at 9.26, a full yard above runner-up Tom Brady (8.22), but he can make history on Sunday against New Orleans.
Ryan can become the first quarterback in NFL history to average at least 7.0 YPA in all 16 games of a season (minimum 15 attempts). It's even more incredible than it sounds when you consider that Ryan's lowest game this season was 7.91 YPA against Arizona. Aaron Rodgers (13 in 2011) and Dan Marino (14 in 1984) are the only other quarterbacks to have more than 11 games with 7.9 YPA in a season since 1950. The only other quarterback to even average 7.5 YPA in the first 15 games of a season was Peyton Manning in 2004. In his Week 17 finale, Manning threw two passes against Denver and rested for the playoffs.
The current benchmark for a minimum YPA achieved in each game of a 16-game season belongs to Kurt Warner at 6.87 YPA in 2001. So with a good game on Sunday, Ryan can raise that benchmark by more than a full yard to 7.91. That is incredible stuff, and explains why Ryan's 9.26 YPA is in line to be the highest season in NFL history (minimum 350 attempts).
The key to Ryan's season has been his week-to-week consistency. Even the greatest quarterback seasons always have that one "off game," and while Ryan certainly had some struggles with the Eagles and Chiefs, his YPA never suffered.
Ryan has also been consistent in other ways. He is the only quarterback to throw at least one touchdown in all 15 games this season, and can become the 21st quarterback to throw a touchdown in all 16 games of a season. Ryan can also join Drew Brees (2011) as the only quarterbacks to throw for at least 237 yards (his lowest game) in all 16 games of a season.
Ryan's Added Value
The statistics are glowing for Ryan, but he has other ways of showing his value as well. Again, the Falcons were afterthoughts in preseason predictions this year, but have already clinched the NFC South with a good chance to finish 11-5. Ryan's 503-yard passing performance against Carolina in Week 4 was one of the season's best performances, and made it clear that there was a shift in power coming in the division.
Ryan has achieved the season he has against what has been the hardest schedule of defenses for any offense in 2016. He has played in Seattle, Denver, and Philadelphia, three of the year's best defenses, and back when those units were closer to full strength before recent injuries. Ryan has played seven games against defenses currently ranked in the top 10 in DVOA.
Speaking of defenses, the Falcons have a bad one, ranked 27th in DVOA and 25th in points per drive allowed. The Falcons can become just the fourth team in NFL history to win at least 11 games while allowing at least 370 points in a season. In fact, if Sunday is a really high-scoring game, the Falcons could become the first team to ever win at least 11 games while allowing 400 points in a season.
The 2016 Falcons have already tied the 2000 Rams for the most wins in a season (five) in games where they allowed at least 28 points. Ryan has had to overcome a bad defense and four blown fourth-quarter leads to get to this point, a potential No. 2 seed and first-round bye in the NFC playoffs.
Matt Ryan vs. The Competition
Ryan is doing great things that most players have never done, which sounds like a most valuable player season. The award is also typically geared towards quarterbacks for obvious reasons. So why have other players gotten more buzz throughout the season for this award? We're going to hit each major candidate and how Ryan stacks up.
Matt Ryan vs. Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott
Depending on what you make of the current MVP odds, Dallas rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott might be the favorite right now to capture the award. However, have we not spent many weeks this season touting rookie quarterback Dak Prescott as an MVP candidate in his own right? And have we not spent a couple of years pretending that the Dallas offensive line could cure cancer if it wasn't busy trying to win football games? All of these parts have led to Dallas (13-2) claiming the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but doesn't the presence of each part limit some of the value from the other? If you are not clearly the most valuable player on your own team, how can you be the most valuable player in the whole league?
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Dallas still had a fantastic offensive line in 2015, and the No. 9 run offense, but was 32nd in passing DVOA with Tony Romo missing the majority of the season. Not to mention that the Cowboys finished 4-12. This is why I am more impressed with what Prescott has done this season, because we know success as a rookie quarterback is far less common than success as a running back. The back has a much easier learning curve. Elliott has been great, but so have veterans Le'Veon Bell (Pittsburgh) and David Johnson (Arizona) this season at that position, with arguably less help around them. Of course, Bell has entered the MVP discussion very late after he was suspended for three games, but he will sit out this weekend's finale. As for Johnson, even though he has been the most consistent back in the league this year, his Cardinals are going to miss the playoffs after Carson Palmer declined and Chandler Catanzaro choked a few times. It is virtually impossible to say a player is MVP if his team has a losing record and misses the playoffs. And shouldn't an offensive player who wins MVP be leading one of the league's top offenses? The Cardinals currently rank 22nd in offensive DVOA.
Prescott and Elliott have been a dream duo, but separating their value is very difficult. This is like in 1987 when San Francisco's Jerry Rice (30) and Joe Montana (18) split the 49ers vote, allowing John Elway to win the MVP with 36 votes. Something similar happened in 1993 when Emmitt Smith (26 votes) beat out San Francisco quarterback Steve Young (21 votes) and Rice (15).
While Elliott does lead all running backs in rushing DYAR, Prescott is right there at No. 2 in passing DVOA and QBR behind Ryan. If not for that three-game stretch where Prescott failed to throw for 200 yards and only had three touchdowns to two interceptions, the rookie quarterback might be leading everyone for the MVP right now. While the Cowboys likely would have had another fine running game with Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden in the backfield, Prescott has done an incredible job of taking over for an injured Tony Romo and sparing us a season of Mark Sanchez. How many quarterbacks could keep Romo on the bench the way that Prescott has? Hopefully he will get proper credit for this season, even if it doesn't come in the form of the MVP award.
Week 17 outlook: With the Cowboys locked into the top seed, there is no real reason to play Prescott and Elliott much on Sunday, if at all. That should not really deter from their candidacies, but it is hard to see how they can do anything more to bolster their cases.
Matt Ryan vs. Tom Brady
Well, Tom Brady is definitely a better 39-year-old quarterback than Peyton Manning was a year ago, but when someone says Brady should be the 2016 MVP, I feel like quoting Ricky Watters with a "for who, for what?" Personally, I do not feel that suspended players should be eligible for awards for that year, but they are, so let's look at the merits of Brady's season.
While Brady is having one of his better statistical seasons, the Patriots have not needed MVP quarterback play to clean up in a soft AFC this season. The fact that New England has the No. 1 scoring defense (15.7 points per game) and went 3-1 to start the season when Brady was suspended should all but invalidate his MVP case for 2016. Out of the 32 quarterbacks to win MVP since 1970, only Brett Favre (1996) and Terry Bradshaw (1978) had the No. 1 scoring defense on their side. Atlanta has lost five games by a combined 22 points this season, while the Patriots have allowed 33 fewer points than the next closest team in the NFL.
It's not like the Patriots were winning games by a score of 13-9 in Brady's absence. Jimmy Garoppolo had excellent statistics (league-leading DVOA- and QBR-level stuff) in the six quarters he played to start the season, and the team waxed Houston 27-0 with third-string rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett. The Bills shut New England out 16-0 in Week 4, but Brissett was forced to play that game injured, and Bill Belichick's mastery is not undefeated. Still, having the best coaching in the NFL does always factor into the question of just how valuable Brady really is in any given season. The Patriots still went 11-5 without him in 2008 with Matt Cassel, a quarterback who had not started a football game since high school. Many expect offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to get another shot at a head coach job in 2017.
As for comparing Brady's season to Ryan's, the four-game suspension should matter a lot. No player has won MVP after missing a quarter of the season like that. Joe Montana missed three games in 1989, but his season was also historically record-setting in passing efficiency with some high-profile comebacks against playoff teams like the Eagles and Rams. His competition for the award was also much weaker: Green Bay quarterback Don Majkowski on a non-playoff team and Minnesota defensive tackle Keith Millard. Brady has much stronger competition this year, and his season is not on the same historical level as what Montana did in 1989's less-prolific passing climate.
While Ryan has played the toughest schedule of defenses this season, New England's ranks 22nd out of 32 teams. The Patriots as a team have had the easiest schedule in football. Brady's season started in Week 5 with a Cleveland team that lost its first 14 games. He then played a Cincinnati team that has won only five games all year, a Pittsburgh team missing Ben Roethlisberger and Cameron Heyward, and a Buffalo team missing LeSean McCoy. In his prime-time moment against Seattle, the only team to top 25 points on the Patriots this year, Brady failed to lead a game-tying touchdown drive in the final minute, and did not throw a touchdown in the game. Since then, Brady has beaten up on the poor 49ers, Jets (twice), and Rams, and also shredded a proud Baltimore team before a meager 16-3 win in Denver. The Seattle game was the one where Brady really needed to deliver like an MVP, and he did not come through.
There are also the games in which Brady and Ryan faced the same competition (at Denver and the NFC West). Ryan inarguably got the better of those matchups.
The argument that Brady (10-1) has as many wins as Ryan (10-5) in four fewer starts is ridiculous on the basis of just how different the defenses have been for these teams this season. As mentioned above, only Seattle scored more than 25 points against the Patriots this season. Meanwhile, the Falcons have had nine games allowing more than 25 points with a respectable 5-4 record. Between the differences in schedules and defense, there is no way one could put the quarterback's starting records on equal ground this season. Ryan has had to do more for his team to win 10 games, and he put them in good position for several more victories.
(Ed. Note: There's also been a special teams difference here. The Patriots' strengths on special teams are kickoffs and punts, leading to better field position and less scoring by opponents. The Falcons' strength has been placekicking, which only tangentially affects the opposing offense by impacting the game script. -- Aaron Schatz)
Finally, there is the bad argument used against Ryan that Julio Jones is simply too good for Ryan alone to be MVP. Since when is Rob Gronkowski chopped liver? The stud tight end only played six games (basically five excluding the Jets game he left early) with Brady, but if you look at how each quarterback has fared this season when targeting their stud versus everyone else, Gronkowski clearly had a bigger impact on Brady's numbers than Jones did on Ryan's. Ryan was dominant in two games against bad competition without Jones available, and Atlanta still won all four games this season in which Jones was held to 35 receiving yards or less.
|2016 Targets: An MVP Quarterback's Best Friend|
|Tom Brady||Rob Gronkowski||36||339||138.6%|
|Matt Ryan||Julio Jones||125||592||64.2%|
Gronkowski has accounted for just 8.7 percent of Brady's passes, but 30.3 percent of his DYAR. Jones has accounted for 23.0 percent of Ryan's passes and 34.3 percent of his DYAR. If having Jones is too much of a help to Ryan, then what do you call having even a little Gronkowski?
In fact, there is an argument that Jones should have made some more plays this season. Jones has been the main culprit on a few of Ryan's interceptions this season, tipping the ball to the defense like he did on a huge play in the 26-24 Seattle loss. Jones also had an ugly drop on third-and-12 against the Eagles after Ryan was trying to lead another go-ahead drive in that game, the only game in which Atlanta failed to score at least 23 points this season. It is ridiculous to hold Jones against Ryan for the MVP. Most quarterbacks who won the award had at least one stellar receiver that season.
Week 17 outlook: Brady has had some wild adventures down in Miami in his career. He is questionable with a thigh injury, so he likely won't throw five touchdowns to finish with a ratio of 30 touchdowns to two interceptions. But look out if he does, because the name recognition alone always impresses voters.
Matt Ryan vs. Aaron Rodgers
After the Packers slumped to a 4-6 start, Aaron Rodgers felt his team could run the table and make the playoffs at 10-6. Well, they are a win in Detroit on Sunday night away from doing exactly that, and Rodgers has returned to the usual high-efficiency level we are used to seeing from him. However, wouldn't giving him the MVP award based on a six-game hot streak be a major slap in the face to the players we weren't questioning early in the season about why they weren't playing up to their usual standards?
Through Week 11, Rodgers averaged just 6.73 yards per pass attempt, and looked lost for quarters at a time in several games. Since Week 12, his average is back up to a lofty 8.49, and he has 11 touchdowns to zero interceptions. This has been a great stretch, but it would just not be fair for Rodgers to take the award over Ryan when Ryan has been better since Week 1. When the two met in Week 8's showdown, Ryan led a great game-winning drive to beat the Packers 33-32.
The "run the table" comment will live on if Rodgers delivers on Sunday night, but this isn't like 2014 when he made his R-E-L-A-X statement after another slow start. That year, Rodgers had an extended stretch of dominance to win his second MVP award. One could argue that Tony Romo was the more consistent quarterback for all of 2014, but Rodgers still had him beat in volume. This season, Ryan has great volume too, and it is hard to ignore the difference between 9.26 yards per attempt and a 7.23 average for Rodgers. Rodgers also is not faring as well in DYAR and DVOA as he usually does.
Rodgers (36) has two more touchdown passes than Ryan (34) to lead the NFL, but he has also thrown 73 more passes against a middling schedule. Also, the Packers only have 11 rushing touchdowns, including four from Rodgers himself. Atlanta has 19 rushing touchdowns, and Ryan has a league-high 11 touchdown passes of 30-plus yards compared to only three for Rodgers (20 quarterbacks have more).
Week 17 outlook: Rodgers gets the league's worst pass defense in Detroit with a chance to win the NFC North in the final game of the 2016 regular season. If that's not a perfect national spotlight to literally steal an MVP, then I don't know what is. Adrian Peterson basically convinced enough voters with a Week 17 win over Green Bay in 2012 to take the award from Peyton Manning, so Rodgers could do the same, even if it's totally irrational.
Matt Ryan vs. Derek Carr and Matthew Stafford
Finally, there are the cases of Derek Carr and Matthew Stafford, who have led a combined 15 fourth-quarter comebacks to help annual doormats Oakland and Detroit dream about postseason glory again. The numbers in the first table above show that Carr and Stafford would each lower the bar for several standards that we have come to expect from a quarterback's MVP season. Their performances this season are closer to what we have seen from the likes of Andrew Luck, Drew Brees, and Ben Roethlisberger rather than the other quarterbacks mentioned here.
Carr's comebacks have been impressive at times, but he did get the benefit of multiple, questionable fourth-down calls to extend games against the Saints and Buccaneers. Think Ryan would have liked a certain pass interference penalty on Seattle in Week 6? While Ryan threw nine points back to Eric Berry in a loss to the Chiefs, we know Carr struggled even more against that same defense. Still, Ryan did lead an 11-point comeback late before a most unusual pick-two, and his defense was unable to get the ball back. Not many of Carr's seven comebacks were done in the final minutes of the game, which is usually when Oakland's defense came through with the final stop to secure the wins.
As for Stafford, the record eight fourth-quarter comebacks are impressive, especially the three in the final 65 seconds, but seven of them were from a deficit of four points or less. Only one comeback, against the Rams, was from a 7-point deficit, and the eighth against Chicago was a SICO (self-imposed comeback opportunity) after Stafford threw a pick-six. Stafford had a chance to earn MVP honors with a strong finish against the Giants, Cowboys, and Packers, but so far he's 0-for-2.
Week 17 outlook (Carr): Well, it's not that unlikely that backup Matt McGloin stinks it up in Denver with the No. 2 seed on the line. Of course, Carr himself has struggled with Denver in his career, so we'll never know how that would have gone down on Sunday. But Carr really cost himself any real shot at an MVP after a total stinker against the Chiefs on a Thursday night in Week 14. Hopefully he'll have a healthy return in 2017 and can improve on this season, which just wasn't as MVP-worthy as some wanted to believe it to be.
Week 17 outlook (Stafford): A great game on that national stage against the Packers in what is essentially the biggest game of Stafford's career (it would clinch a home playoff game for the Detroit Lions, people) would help for sure. But you have to think Stafford is way too behind everyone at this point.
Yes, it is a lot of discussion over an individual award, but isn't it really much more than that? Just through this recap we sparked discussions on what really qualifies as the best offense this season, the best defenses, the best quarterback, the impact of coaching, teammates, health, officiating, luck and the schedule. Understanding the MVP race is largely understanding the 16 weeks we just devoured, and ignoring big chunks of that when players were slumping or suspended is just silly.
The player who was the most valuable from Week 1 through Week 17 should be the player who wins the award every time. Predictions of what may happen in the postseason should be irrelevant, because this is a regular-season award voted on before the playoffs begin. Ryan's 1-4 playoff record is irrelevant to what he has done this season, when he has played the best football he ever has in leading the Falcons to the doorstep of a first-round bye again.
Voters usually get the MVP right, because it usually is an easy choice. When it's a harder choice like 2016, will rational thinking win out, or will Ryan's season go down as one of the most underrated in NFL history?