Where Does Matt Ryan Rank Amongst NFL's Elite Quarterbacks?

Thomas GaliciaContributor IIDecember 22, 2012

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 22:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons warms up prior to the start of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 22, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

How many words can you think of that define Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan?

MVP Candidate? He has certainly made his case this season as the starting quarterback of the team that currently has the best record of the NFL.

Elite?

Well, earlier you might have gotten some snickers if you mentioned Ryan as elite. He's been great in his first four years as the Falcons quarterback as he led them to the playoffs in three of those seasons and never finished at .500 or worse, but many have given more credit to Atlanta's running game and defense for the team's recent run of regular season success.

Even earlier this year Ryan had his struggles, which many have used to knock his case for being an elite quarterback. Ryan's critics also point to his playoff record in downgrading him, but he will have the opportunity to change that perception in January, thanks to the Falcons clinching both the NFC South and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

At least his early season struggles seemed to have dissipated by halftime of Atlanta's game against Detroit. Take a look at this nearly insane stat line:

As of ATL-DET halftime, #Falcons QB Matt Ryan has completed 65 of his last 83 passes (78.3%) for 756 yards (9.1 YPA), 8 TDs & 1 INT. #onfire

— Evan Silva (@evansilva) December 23, 2012

Those are stats usually reserved for the elite QBs like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning. Atlanta has also won five of their last six games en route to the NFC South title and home-field advantage throughout the post season.

Ryan would finish his outing against the Lions completing 25 of 32 passes for 279 yards and four touchdowns for a passer rating of 142.6 in a 31-18 victory.

It's time to say that Matt Ryan is among the elite. There are other factors which have precipitated his rise to that status, though: Atlanta's very good offensive line and receiving weapons such as Julio Jones, Roddy White and the ageless wonder, tight end Tony Gonzalez. But even if you have a Ferrari, you need a Ferrari engine to run it.

Ryan is that engine that makes the Falcons offense go, and he could very well be leading it straight to New Orleans.