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Overlooking Matt Ryan’s MVP-caliber 2018 would be a shame

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Guest analyst Ryan Michael takes us through just how good Matt Ryan has been this year, and how little it will likely matter when the MVP voting comes around.

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Ryan Michael is a Pro Football Analyst who specializes in quarterback statistics, analytics, film-study and interviews with NFL veterans. He has used his own era-adjusted metric, QBS2, to grade every qualifying starting quarterback since 1937. For more information, visit his website: www.quarterbackscore.webs.com and follow him on Twitter: @theryanmichael

If before the 2018 season began, someone were to tell you that your quarterback would rank 5th in passer rating (110.6), 5th in touchdown passes (24), 6th in YPA (8.5), 3rd in interception-percentage (1.2%), 2nd in completion-percentage (71.4%) and 1st in passing yards (3,683)—you wouldn’t expect to be disappointed.

At Ryan’s ridiculous pace of 334.8 passing yards per-game, he’d finish the season with 5,357, which would rank 3rd all-time and 121 yards short of breaking Peyton Manning’s single-season record of 5,477.

Don’t worry. I’m waiting for it, both from some Falcons fans and many fans of other teams.

“4-7.”

“Garbage time.”

“Stat-padder!”

Partial truths make the masses no less irrational. Ryan tacked on some extra yardage last week after the game pulled out of reach, but he averages more passing yards per-game in victory (339.0) than he does in defeat (332.4) this season.

Four of the Falcons’ seven losses: 37-36 vs. the Bengals, 22-19 vs. the Cowboys, 18-12 vs. the Eagles and 43-37 vs. the Saints, were dealt by 6 points or less.

Does it matter that Ryan threw what should have been a game-winning touchdown pass vs. the Cowboys before his defense did their thing? Does it matter that Ryan never touched the ball in overtime vs. the Saints in September?

Context be damned, so long as the nameplate on the back of the jersey reads ‘Ryan’.

With Tony Romo and Peyton Manning retired, Ryan has risen through the power rankings to claim social media’s crown as the NFL’s No. 1 punching bag, bereft of context and marinated in partial truths.

“Dome quarterback.”

“Julio.”

“Look at all his weapons!”

Including the awful season opener vs. Philadelphia, Ryan’s passer rating of 94.6 outdoors, on the road this season, nearly mirror’s Tom Brady’s passer rating of 97.0 outdoors, with 5 of those games being played at home.

Brady’s passer rating this season is 65.1 indoors (1-game sample), in case you were wondering.

Let’s pivot for a moment.

Julio Jones is good.

His 3 touchdown receptions rank him 54th in the NFL amongst his peers, below the likes of Aldrick Robinson (4), Tre’Quan Smith (4), Tarik Cohen (4) and Anthony Miller (5).

If you think I’m implying Jones to be on their level, I’m not. Which is exactly why more should be expected of a player used to explain away a quarterback’s success. There was plenty of criticism for Ryan when his 20 touchdown passes in 2017 ranked him 17th amongst his peers.

Ryan led the Falcons in rushing Thanksgiving night with 16 yards. One of his many weapons, Tevin Coleman, averaged 0.7 YPC and scored as many rushing touchdowns as I did.

Averaging 3.9 YPC for the season, the Falcons now rank ahead of only the Bills (3.8) and Cardinals (3.6).

With an offensive line wearing t-shirts that read “come on through,” a running game ranked second to last in the NFC in YPC and a defense ranked 29th in the NFL in PPG surrendered, what should the expectation of Ryan be?

Historically, one-dimensional, dysfunctional teams that give up points early and often paired with running games that struggle to move the ball forward create the perfect storm for interceptions.

Opposing defenses know that you need to catch up, they know that you lack balance, they load up on defensive backs and you better be ready.

Ryan’s 1.2% interception-percentage in 2018 would be a career-best.

Ironic that Ryan is playing some of the best football of his career during a season when Atlanta lacks the balance to capitalize. If he were playing this well in 2010, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that he’d have one ring to wear next the one his defense gave away in 2016.

“What ifs” leave fans feeling as empty as Ryan’s fourth quarter stat-line last night.

If you’re team’s record is 4-7, nobody cares, no matter how much you overachieve.

Ryan is playing at an MVP-caliber level. Not at Drew Brees’ or Patrick Mahomes’ level, sure. But he’s playing as well if not better than Brady in 2017 or Aaron Rodgers in 2016.

Wrong team.

Wrong season.

Wrong quarterback.

Unfortunately, we’ll see Matt Ryan in the footnotes of history, whether he belongs there or not.