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MVP Race: Comparing Matt Ryan to Tom Brady

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It’s way too early to make decisions, but how do things stack up so far?

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If you watch any sports channels, it’s hard to miss the conversation around potential MVP candidates for the NFL so far. Falcons QB Matt Ryan is often mentioned as a potential winner, but many analysts feel that Tom Brady is the clear favorite right now. Both QBs are playing well, and both of them are leading teams that are at the top of their divisions. There is still a lot of football to be played, and this conversation could look pointless a few games from now. That said, let’s see how the two QBs stack up right now.

The Case for Ryan

No offense in the league is more successful than the Atlanta Falcons right now. They’re averaging nearly 33 points per game, and that’s even having played two of the top defenses in the league in the Broncos and Seahawks. Ryan leads the league in yards and touchdowns and has only 4 interceptions on the season. The Falcons have scored 40 or more points 3 times this season, while no other team in the NFL has done it more than once. Simply put, this offense is nearly unstoppable and Ryan is at the center of it.

Of the 6 wins that the Falcons have, those teams have a combined 53% win percentage compared to the 36.6% for the 4 wins that Brady has amassed. Simply put, Ryan has faced stiffer competition this season. The average defensive ranking for the teams the Falcons have played as been 20th, while Brady has played teams whose collective ranking is 19th. So, the level of competition on defense they’ve faced has been nearly identical on average. Additionally, in that span, Ryan and the Falcons have beat two top-15 defenses (Broncos, Packers) while Brady has beat one (Steelers).

The case for Ryan is a strong one.

The Case for Brady

While Brady has played fewer games, he has looked simply dominant in all of them. He already has 12 touchdowns and no interceptions in his four games, and leads the league in passer rating and Total QBR. Many will point to the Patriots being 3-1 in his absence, but it’s hard to ignore that their offense is simply far more potent with him under center. He also leads the league in net yards per pass attempt (Ryan is 2nd) and passing TD % (Ryan is also 2nd).

Additionally, while Brady has the best tight-end in the game right now in Rob Gronkowski, the Falcons have more overall depth at the skill positions. Simply put, Brady is doing more with less around him.

While Ryan has had a rough game or two (first Bucs game, end of the Chargers game), Brady has been nearly perfect in the four games he’s played so far.

The case for Brady is also a strong one.

So, who is the MVP right now?

Falcons fans may not want to admit it, but the competition between these two QBs is probably closer than they realize. Brady has been nearly perfect this year, though Ryan has been very good as well.

One factor, to me, weighs heavily in Ryan’s favor. Team defense. The Falcons are in the bottom five of the league while the Patriots have a top-10 defense. While I think the Falcons defense is improving, there’s no denying the amount of points they continue to give up every game. Ryan and the rest of the Falcons offense are critical to the 6 wins they have so far. While Brady has been very good, he also plays on a more complete team when you factor in team defense.

Let’s be honest: there are 30 other teams that would be thrilled to be in this conversation right now. Falcons fans should be thrilled that their QB is playing at such a level that he’s compared favorably with a future hall of fame player. That said, when you factor in the teams around them, and the individual performances, I think the MVP is pretty clear.

Call me a homer, but in my mind Matt Ryan is the MVP right now.