NFL MVP: Why the Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan is a Serious Candidate

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NFL MVP: Why the Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan is a Serious Candidate
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Matt Ryan proved in a Week 10 win against the Baltimore Ravens that he is an elite NFL quarterback.

Carving up one of the AFC's elite defenses with over 300 yards passing and two touchdowns, Ryan showed the league what kind of leader and playmaker he has become.

Ryan followed it up in Week 11, gutting out another stellar performance and matching his 101.8 passer rating of the week before.

But has Ryan reached the elevated status of an MVP candidate just yet? Though he captains the Atlanta Falcons, who don the NFC's best record through Week 11, it is arguable that the young quarterback has not yet reached Tom Brady or Peyton Manning status.

Ryan may be nowhere near on pace to keep up with the number of yards that those two put up, but all stats aside, Matt Ryan may have a solid case for being the player that is most valuable to his team in 2010.

Let's look at some of the past Most Valuable Players in the NFL. In 2006, LaDainian Tomlinson took home the hardware. In 2007, Tom Brady nabbed the award. In 2008 and 2009, Peyton Manning added to history. What do all these players have in common? Apart from having outstanding statistical seasons, their teams all won.

Though it would appear that winning MVPs is mostly based on stats, how players contribute to their teams' success is possibly a wider correlation. In 2006, Tomlinson led the Chargers to their winningest season in franchise history.

The next season, it was Tom Brady had his Patriots waltzing into the Super Bowl. In 2008 and 2009, Peyton Manning breezed through each week with an offense that hardly included a running game. All of these past MVPs have been leaders contributing to a winning team, and Matt Ryan and the Falcons may be the next match.

Does Matt Ryan deserve to be a serious MVP candidate?

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Peyton Manning's 2008 season was not a record-breaking one, as he only threw 27 touchdowns and had a quarterback rating only two points higher than Matt Ryan does currently. What stood out to voters was Manning’s ability to almost effortlessly pilot the Colts throughout the season.

This is something Ryan has caught people’s eye with in recent weeks. Ryan has shown an ability to lead, orchestrate, and establish one of the most successful offenses so far this season. These qualities go a long way into determining who is football’s most valuable. Intangibles like leadership and vitality, not eye-popping stats, are the biggest factor when determining an MVP.

I am certainly not saying that a guy like Tony Gonzalez is deserving of winning the MVP just because he is a team leader, puts up good-enough numbers, and plays on a winning team, but rather that a winner’s biggest playmaker often times reels in a postseason award.

The player that performs at a high level on the big stage, stays cool under pressure, and delivers in breathtaking ways when his team most needs it is deserving of this award. The word "valuable" in the NFL has never meant most yards passing, it has meant the player that single-handedly improves his team the most.

Matty Ice certainly fits the bill. But will the voters agree? Start printing your campaign signs: Matt Ryan for NFL Most Valuable Player.

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