Falcons QB Matt Ryan’s season has had some tremendous peaks and valleys.
He was a model of consistency, holding the top spot on the MVP Meter for about two months from September to November, but his stock took a big hit in Week 11 with a five-interception performance against the Cardinals. A loss at Carolina a few weeks later certainly didn’t help matters.
While he has not reestablished himself as our front-runner, Ryan has bounced back into the MVP conversation over the past couple weeks, throwing seven touchdown passes and zero interceptions in back-to-back lopsided wins over the Giants and Lions, helping the Falcons clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Ryan is one of only four quarterbacks with more than nine starts (the Alex Smith-excluding qualifier) and a passer rating of better than 100 (Ryan’s is 100.2). His completion percentage (again, excluding Smith from the conversation) is a league-best 69.0.
The Falcons have relied on Ryan in a season in which their running game has rarely been very effective, and he has proven to be up to the challenge. The few blemishes on his track record this season stand out when placed next to those of Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning, and that will cost Ryan when it comes time for MVP voters to make their decision. He has earned their consideration, though.
(Last week’s ranking in parentheses)
1. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 1) — Rodgers is staying put on the Meter after matching a season-high with 342 yards passing in Green Bay’s rout of the Titans at Lambeau Field. He threw three TDs and ran in another — his second rushing TD in the past three games. Rodgers is the league’s highest-rated passer (106.2). He is only ninth in the league in passing yards (3,930), but don’t forget about the plays he has made with his legs (54 rushes for 259 yards) and his ability to overcome injuries to his supporting cast.
2. Broncos QB Peyton Manning (No. 2) — Manning is the leader for the MVP award in the minds of many keen NFL observers, but aside from passing yards, Manning has not built a significant edge over Rodgers in any of the major statistical categories, and Manning has had his tremendous season with a mostly healthy group of targets, a Pro Bowl left tackle and a better group of backs than Green Bay’s. Rodgers has had to do a little bit more with a little bit less, and that’s why Manning is firmly second on the Meter.
3. Falcons QB Matt Ryan (No. 6) — Another example of just how hot Ryan has been recently — Saturday against the Lions he came close to breaking the record for consecutive completions. Ryan completed his first 12 passes at Detroit after completing his last 10 vs. the Giants in Week 15, but the streak ended at 22, just two short of matching the record that Donovan McNabb set in 2004 (24).
4. Texans DE J.J. Watt (No. 3) — The Texans’ offense disappeared in Week 16, but Watt led a decent defensive effort by Houston in a loss to the Vikings. Watt, the league’s most dominant defensive player, recorded one sack, retaking the league lead with 20½, and helped keep RB Adrian Peterson relatively quiet. He also forced a fumble for the fourth consecutive game.
5. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (No. 4) — Peterson finally cooled off in Week 16, but the Vikings didn’t in a win over the Texans. His streak of games with 100-plus yards ended at eight at Houston. Note that the Vikings have defeated playoff teams (the Texans and 49ers) in games where Peterson was not hugely productive, rushing 25-86-0 in both contests.
6. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 5) — He has squandered the bump he received after his stellar showing vs. the Texans in Week 14 with un-Brady-like games in the past two weeks, throwing two picks in each game. Brady appeared primed to be a top contender along with Manning and Rodgers a little more than a week ago, but he has had a passer rating of 74.8 or worse in three of the past four games.
7. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (No. 7) — Though only one spot separates Wilson from Brady on the meter, there is a big drop-off from the decorated veteran to the impressive rookie. Brady has thrown for 1,700 more yards and seven more TDs with two fewer interceptions. We know Wilson is a much more productive rusher, but that still doesn’t make up the difference between these two.
8. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (Cusp) — After missing Week 15 with a knee injury, RG3 returned and threw two TD passes and a pick in Washington’s win over the Eagles. The fact that the Redskins won comfortably without him in Week 15 hurt his MVP stock, but there is a reason the team was itching to get him back on the field.
9. Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (No. 9) — Lynch remained in Beast Mode vs. San Francisco, rushing for 100-plus yards for the third consecutive game. After scoring two TDs against the 49ers, Lynch has scored seven times in the past four games (all Seattle wins).
10. Broncos LB Von Miller (Cusp) — Miller recorded 1½ sacks in Denver’s win over Cleveland, so he might still have an outside shot at the 2012 sack title if Watt does not go off vs. the Colts earlier in the day. Miller trails Watt by three and 49ers OLB Aldon Smith by two.
On the cusp (in alphabetical order): Bengals DT Geno Atkins, Texans RB Arian Foster, Bengals WR A.J. Green, Lions WR Calvin Johnson, Colts QB Andrew Luck, Bears WR Brandon Marshall, 49ers OLB Aldon Smith, Colts WR Reggie Wayne.