Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 10/21/12
Six weeks into the season, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has been more or less ordained as the MVP front-runner.Some big showings by big names last week, however, got the debate flowing again.Specifically, Peyton Manning’s performance in the Bronco’s 24-point comeback win at San Diego (the Chargers, of course, being the reason that the dictionary has a thunderbolt next to the word ‘overrated’) has made everybody and their mother ready to hand him his fifth MVP award already.  Matt Ryan was instantly forgotten in the debate, as was the reigning MVP, the consensus offensive rookie of the year, and Peyton’s own brother.Now, Aaron Rodgers had a great game against a stellar defense, but it was only one game.  He has had a pretty good season, but that’s what the Pro Bowl is for, not the MVP award.  He can re-enter the debate when he has a couple more dominant performances.Robert Griffin III is in the midst of one of the great rookie seasons of all-time, and his numbers are as good as anybody’s in the NFL right now.  Unfortunately for him, his team is dragging him down in the race.  The Redskins stand at 3-3, but they play in possibly the best division in the NFL.  It’s unlikely that they’ll win the division, and the top-heavy NFC will probably see both wild card spots filled by 11-win teams, which Washington certainly isn’t.  The last time a player won NFL MVP without going to the playoffs was 1973, and even that required OJ Simpson breaking the 2,000-yard rushing barrier.  If the Redskins improve, he can join the argument, but as of right now he’s looking up at the top guys.That leaves a three-man race, with the Manning brothers up against Matty Ice.   But how does one rank the three?  If you go by value to their teams, the order is probably Peyton/Ryan/Eli.  If you rank their teams, the order goes Ryan/Eli/Peyton.  Not much help there.Do we look at crunch-time production?  After all, the MVP should be on top of his game when things matter most, right?  Here's a look at the fourth-quarter and overtime numbers for the three this season, as well as the average of all quarterbacks with at least 20 such attempts on the year:NameCompAttYdsTDINTQB RtgPeyton Manning436649660118.0Eli Manning274642753100.5Matt Ryan26423181183.2NFL AVERAGE32543993285.3By that metric, Matt Ryan is not only the least-qualified MVP candidate, he's also a below-average quarterback in general.  Of course, Peyton and Eli have had to rally their teams at times, while the Falcons are usually ahead at that point.  In fact, his signature moment this season was in one of the rare situations his team needed to rally, a 59-yard bomb to Roddy White from his own end zone with a minute to go against Carolina.  He left the deal-sealing to Matt Bryant, just as he did in week six, but he wouldn't have been in range without Ryan's work.Let's look at consistency.  Double-digit comebacks are great and all, but they signify that something was going horribly wrong in the first part of the game, otherwise they wouldn't be necessary.  Here's a look at all three guys, comparing first half and second half numbers:NameHalfCompAttPctYdsTDINTQB RtgPeyton Manning1st7611168.58613485.5Peyton Manning2nd7811667.2948110123.8Matt Ryan1st9913971.2996105100.3Matt Ryan2nd619762.97604196.6Eli Manning1st8513164.99965391.0Eli Manning2nd589461.777662100.3Peyton is far and away the slowest starter of the bunch, but he's made up for it with some second halves for the ages.  Ryan cools off near the end, but he's the best of the bunch in the first half and his second-half drop can be attributed somewhat the not throwing as much.  Eli's numbers are middle-of-the-pack at both ends, but his demeanor when things are going tough is his most well-known strong point.At this point, all three guys really have a case.  Manning has been clutch, Ryan has been consistent, and Eli...well, he's just been Eli, but that's enough in most years.  If voting were held today, mine would go to Ryan, simply because his team is 6-0 and he is the biggest part of that.Of course, they all still have ten games left to play.  No need to give anybody the award right now, right?
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