It sounds strange talking about a rookie quarterback as a possible MVP, but Matt Ryan is definitely on the short list in 2008 for the major NFL award. Before I present the case for Matt Ryan, here’s a few things working against him…. His pure numbers aren’t great (11th in yards, 9th in rating, 16th in TD passes), he is a rookie and Michael Turner was important to the offense as well.
Here’s a few reasons why Ryan should finish in the top 3 of the MVP voting regardless of the above reasons for him not to win. Matt Ryan is the biggest reason for turning around a team, franchise, culture and city in Atlanta. He jumped into the leadership role on offense, allowed Turner to run well (with a different rookie QB under center Turner would have faced 8 or 9-man fronts all season), won close ball games, and (with a win and Carolina loss in week 17) could have Atlanta as the #2 seed heading into the playoffs this season. Ryan has only thrown 9 interceptions (behind only Chad Pennington and Jason Campbell with as many pass attempts), taken a meager 16 sacks and is the biggest reason Atlanta wins 10+ games in 2008 instead of the predicted 3-4 games.
So if Ryan doesn’t win the award, so will? Many say Peyton Manning. He’s never played better than 2008, leading Indianapolis to the playoffs when significant injuries and inconsistent play from others gave the Colts a 3-4 record after 7 games.
Kurt Warner? He was the trendy choice through 12 games, but a fading finish and a dud of a game in New England last week, eliminates the aging one from the competition.
Adrian Peterson? He’s leading the NFL in rushing by almost 200 yards, but he coughed the ball up multiple times against Atlanta in week 16 with the divisional crown on the line. Chester Taylor in the backfield steals some of his thunder, and the Vikings could still miss the playoffs with a loss and Bears win in the final week.
Deangelo Williams? The Carolina back could be the fuel for Carolina getting the #2 seed in the NFC (with a win against New Orleans), not to mention 18 TDs through 15 games, but Jonathon Stewart has his share of the running game and Carolina could have a #5 seed and an early exit in the playoffs.
James Harrison? He’s probably a top-3 choice in the purest sense of the award. He’s over 100 tackles, 16 sacks, a safety, an INT, 7 forced fumbles to lead the best defense in the NFL this year. On the flip side, a defensive player rarely wins the award (Lawrence Taylor in 1986 to be exact) because they must be so far beyond the season of the best offensive player. Harrison is definitely worthy of top consideration, but would need to be a slam dunk ahead of Manning and Ryan to win – which isn’t the case.