Why wouldn't he have been when you consider that he is the quarterback for the NFL's best team and is putting up the best numbers of his career? This is something that should've been a lock, but in recent weeks—and through no fault of his own—Ryan's MVP stock has dropped.
I say through no fault of his own because Ryan's performance hasn't had a steep drop. Atlanta has lost one game this season, but since then, Ryan has continued the excellence he started the 2012 campaign with.
Even coach Jimmy Johnson had an opinion as to who should be the NFL's MVP, proclaiming on Thanksgiving Day that it was Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Despite these protests, Ryan should still be in the driver's seat for MVP. He has been consistent all season (whereas Rodgers, Brady and Manning started off slowly) and can only claim one bad game to his credit (a game against Arizona that the Falcons still wound up pulling out in the end).
However, there is one concession I will make in regards to someone other than Ryan being the MVP.
While he has proven himself to be more important to the Atlanta Falcons' success than any of the other quarterbacks mentioned for their teams (save for RGIII, but I can't see a non-playoff team's quarterback winning the award), he's not more important to the Falcons than J.J. Watt has been to the Houston Texans.
Who should be the 2012 NFL MVP?
Watt's importance to Houston's success as well as the impact he has had on the Texans defense should be enough to merit him the award.
What will likely keep him from earning this distinction (despite my protests) is the simple fact that, traditionally, the most valuable player award goes to the quarterback from the best team—provided his numbers have been prolific enough.
That's a flaw in the MVP's voters and their own misconceptions about football, not a slight on Ryan. If it were truly an MVP award, Watt would win it going away.
But based off of the criterion of "quarterback from the best team" that seems to have been in place every year except Lawrence Taylor's 1986 MVP campaign, this award goes to Matt Ryan.
His stats are comparable to other MVPs, as Ryan is currently first in the league in passing yards with 3,590 yards. He's already thrown for 22 touchdowns, which ranks sixth in the NFL. Interceptions are the only real blemish on his record with 13, but five of those picks came in one unfortunate game (where again I must point out the Falcons came out victorious anyway, partly due to Ryan).
The key for Ryan's case has been in Atlanta's fourth-quarter comebacks. Ryan already has six so far this season, and 15 overall for his relatively young career.
I'm still planted firmly in the camp that J.J. Watt is the NFL's most valuable player, but if the trend of just naming a quarterback the MVP continues, Ryan is the best choice.
With him, Atlanta is tied with Houston for the best record in the NFL and looks well on its way to claiming home-field advantage in the NFC.
Without him, who knows where the Falcons might be? They wouldn't nearly be as good as they are now. That's the very definition of valuable.