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Matt Ryan vs. Aaron Rodgers: Tale of the Tape

First, some basics. Matt Ryan was drafted third overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2008 after a standout career at Boston College. It was there he earned the nickname Matty Ice because of his coolness under pressure. At a desirable height of 6’4”, he came into the NFL at 224 pounds, but is now listed at 217. Except for his right arm, he’s one of the least athletic of the current top NFL quarterbacks. Due to his lack of speed and maneuverability, he tries to throw quickly and seldom attempts to run for yardage.

Other than this last trait, however, Ryan bears many similarities to Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. Like Rodgers, all nine of his NFL years have been spent with the same team. Though two years younger, Ryan has been a starter from day one, while Rodgers had to wait in the wings for three years. Each have played in 142 regular season games. Ryan’s 37,701 yards passing is about 1,000 more than Rodgers, and his 3,288 pass completions are about 200 more. However, he also holds a wide lead over Rodgers in interceptions, 114 to only 72.

While Rodgers’ rise to superstardom occurred quickly, it could be argued that Ryan has just reached that status this year, even though he was named to the Pro Bowl in 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016.

Ryan’s lifetime regular season passer rating is 93.6, versus Rodgers’ 104.1 — the all-time NFL career best (based on 1,500+ attempts).

Ryan’s 2016 season has been one of the finest in NFL history. His 117.1 passer rating this year ranks fifth ever in a single season, behind only Rodgers (122.5 in 2011), Peyton Manning (121.1), Nick Foles (119.2) and Tom Brady (117.2).

I refer to passer rating frequently. Though I agree with those who say touchdowns thrown are given too much emphasis in the formula, it’s still a great tool for making comparisons.

Ryan’s Rising Postseason Performances

The major blot on Matt Ryan’s record is his failure to excel in the postseason, a tendency that he is rapidly putting behind him.

Ryan’s Falcons lost their first three playoff games: 30-24 to the Cardinals in 2008, 48-21 to the Packers in 2010, and 24-2 to the Giants in 2011. Ryan’s passer ratings were, 72.8, 69.0, and 71.1.

The tide began turning for Ryan when, aided by his 93.8 passer rating, Atlanta edged the powerful Seahawks 30-28 in the 2012 postseason. A week later, the Falcons lost to the 49ers 28-24, despite a sterling 114.8 passer rating by Ryan.

Last week, in his sixth playoff game, he led his team to a 36-20 demolition of the Seahawks, compiling a 125.7 rating along the way.

Ryan’s postseason record thus stands at 2-0 against Seattle and 0-4 against the rest of the league. After throwing for under 200 yards in each of his first three playoff games, Ryan has gone for 250, 396 (in the loss to San Francisco), and 338 yards last week. His playoff demons appear to have been exorcised.

On Wednesday, Ryan was named the NFL’s most valuable player by the Professional Football Writers of America. He’ll probably get the same honor from the NFL in about two weeks.

Over their past eight games, Rodgers has a passer rating average of 118, and Ryan is hot on his heels at 114. You’d have to look long and hard to find a playoff matchup between two quarterbacks who are coming off such fine seasons and who have both been on similar tears as Ryan and Rodgers.

The national audience should be in store for an epic battle on Sunday.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. Kato January 21, 2017

    Passer rating is a decent indicator of how well a quarterback is playing. However it doesn’t take into account a lot of things like fumbles, scrambing for first downs, throwing the ball away rather than making a risky throw, and interceptions based on deflections that may not be the QBs fault. There aren’t really statistics for that, even QBR isn’t perfect. Which is why I love PFF.

  2. KILLER January 21, 2017

    Facts in the article are OK and relevant. Good article, Rob.

    However, the blurb lines under the article title on the main page states that Matt Ryan “will likely edge Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers for MVP”. So, first of all, “edge” is not the right description. It is going to be a landslide. Ryan beat Rodgers in every meaningful category and some were not even close. Ryan beats Rodgers by a mile in yards per attempt and by a mile in QB rating despite playing behind a lesser offensive line. He also led his offense to many more points per game and his team to more victories and a better playoff ceding against a tougher schedule than the Packers faced. By all accounts Rodgers is not even close to Ryan. You should replace “will likely” with “will almost certainly” and “edge” with “most justifiably beat out by a mile”. Also, the blurb makes it sound like it is down to just those two players. Really several other players should and likely will receive more votes than Rodgers but fewer than Ryan.

    I’m not sure if you write the cover blurbs for your own articles or if you are saddled with deceptive ones. The inherent deceptive language really reminds me of Monty, not you.