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Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan in MVP conversation

By The Sports Xchange

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is a strong candidate for the NFL's most valuable player award. Ryan completed 346 of 498 passes for 4,613 yards, 34 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 15 games. His passer rating of 115.5 leads the league. File Photo by Ian Halperin/UPI
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Quarterback Matt Ryan is a strong candidate for the NFL's most valuable player award.
"It's obviously nice to be mentioned in the mix because it's something that's a special award, a really nice recognition, but at the end of the day it's about winning games," Ryan said on Tuesday during his weekly radio spot on 680 The Fan.
"That's where my mindset has been all year. It's about trying to do the best that I can week-in and week-out. I feel like I've been doing a good job of that this year."
Ryan's main competition for the award includes Tom Brady of New England, Derek Carr of Oakland, Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott of Dallas, Matthew Stafford of Detroit and David Johnson of Arizona.
"This time of year is when MVP conversations begin," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "I think it is also important to recognize when those conversations begin, there are a bunch of people involved that are playing really well.
"I think Matt would be the first to tell you how many guys on our team are playing really well. He's kind of the conduit of that. Any MVP talk and I know it's an individual award, generally there are a lot of people that are playing really well for that to happen."
Ryan completed 346 of 498 passes for 4,613 yards, 34 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 15 games. His passer rating of 115.5 leads the league.
Among quarterbacks who average 9-plus yards per pass, Ryan's 69.5 seasonal completion percentage is third all-time behind Sammy Baugh (1945) and Joe Montana (1989).
Ryan has thrown touchdown passes to 13 players this season, the most in a single season in NFL history. Backup tight ends Joshua Perkins and D.J. Tialavea caught career-first touchdown passes against the Carolina Panthers.
A nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who regularly cover the NFL will vote on the award. The ballots were sent out on Dec. 16 and are due back on Jan. 4 and will not be accepted before Jan. 2.
The list of the voters is released when the awards are announced on Feb. 4 at NFL Honors program the night before Super Bowl LI.
Quinn, a defensive coordinator by trade, has marveled at Ryan's season.
"My math skills aren't good enough to figure out passer rating," Quinn said. "I generally look at obviously the completion, yards per catch, and yards per attempt. Matt has had a terrific year. It's by example of how many different guys get involved."
Quinn knows that the players like the way Ryan spreads the wealth.
"I think (the Carolina game) was another day where nine or 10 different guys got involved," Quinn said. "We often talk about Julio Jones and he's such an important part, but no one would be as excited for it as many teammates to get involved is Julio."
Quinn will be taking the Falcons to the playoffs in his second season. Seattle and Dallas have also clinched playoff berths in the NFC.
"Well we've played Seattle so my general thoughts of them I know just how tough they are defensively," Quinn said. "I know what Russell Wilson can do with his feet. I think Doug Baldwin is taking his stuff to another level and the addition of Jimmy Graham and how they feature their guys. They play with real speed on special teams. I know them better than most because we played them.
"We played Dallas last year, but I'll go back to my point, teams are different from year to year. They're quite a bit different and they are a perfect example of that."
Quinn likes the Cowboys brand of football.
"I've got real appreciation for how they run it, for the fundamentally sound way that they play defense, they just don't allow big plays, they play tough, and they're a good tackling team," Quinn said.
--The Falcons hope to get tight end Austin Hooper (knee) and linebacker De'Vondre Campbell (concussion) back from injury. Also, left guard Andy Levitire, who didn't finish the Carolina game because of a hip injury, is expected back. All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones (toe) and cornerback Jalen Collins (knee) returned from injury against the Carolina.
--Coach Dan Quinn offered up a scenario of how closely the quarterbacks work together and drill each other to get ready for games.
"You see it each week with Matt Schaub to Matt Ryan at the end of each week he's like Alex Trebek with all of the quizzes and tests that he fires at him," Quinn said. "Those small interactions that happen, teammate-to-teammate, are really strong."
--The NFL has rules for teams interviewing coaches during the playoffs. Falcons coach Dan Quinn knows the rules well. He was interviewed during the "open" period in 2014, when he landed the Falcons head coaching post.
The Falcons elected to wait for him to finish his duties with as Seattle's defensive coordinator.
Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who has the league's top-scoring offense, is a hot head coaching candidate. Quinn and Shanahan have talked about the offensive coordinator interviewing for a head coaching vacancy in the coming weeks.
"It's not something we talk regularly about, but certainly something that we've discussed," Quinn said.
Sounds like they have a plan.
WR Julio Jones (toe) has 76 catches for 1,313 yards and five touchdowns. He returned against Carolina. The Saints double-team him in the previous meeting.
DE Dwight Freeney (rest day) was out on Wednesday.
DE Adrian Clayborn (knee) returned to action against Carolina and should get more playing time against the Saints.
TE Austin Hooper (knee) did not practice on Wednesday.
LB De'Vondre Campbell (concussion protocol) returned to practice on Wednesday.
WR Taylor Gabriel (foot) did not practice on Wednesday.

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