On the eve of Super Bowl LI, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was named the regular-season MVP after throwing for nearly 5,000 yards and leading the Falcons to an 11-5 record.
The MVP race seemed to be wide open, but Ryan took the award in a landslide, easily beating his Super Bowl opponent Tom Brady in the voting.
On a special Super Bowl Sunday edition of Undisputed, Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless broke down how the award will affect the performances of the two starting quarterbacks in tonight's game.
Shannon: The MVP award validates Matt Ryan in his mind
“I think it validates him. In [Matt’s] mind, I believe he always believed he should be mentioned with the Bradys. He should be mentioned with the Rodgers. The Drew Brees. He always felt that.
We’ve had a lot of guys come up here and we ask ‘well, who’s the best?’ And they defer.
But deep down inside, they always feel [that they’re the best]. That’s just the way an athlete thinks. He trains and prepares himself to be the best, and that’s the only way he sees himself. This validates him."
Brett DavisBrett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Shannon: This is the confidence boost Matt Ryan needed
"[Matt Ryan] walks into this game, his chest is going to be puffed out. Like ‘yeah, Tom. I belong in the conversation with you.’
I believe this will raise his confidence even more. Because he’s played the best quarterback from start to finish.
.... Playing against Tom Brady is not an easy task, because he always goes in. You know what’s on his resume. He’s a two-time league MVP, three-time Super Bowl MVP, four Super Bowl wins.
So this can be a daunting task. But winning a regular-season MVP, which embodies the course [of the season]. We’ve seen guys have great one-games. This is a 16-game resume builder. It also validates Arthur Blank, who gave him the big contract. it also validates Thomas Dimitroff, who selected Matt Ryan.
Matt Ryan will go into this game knowing ‘I belong on the same field with Tom Brady.’"
Dale ZanineDale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Skip: Tom Brady will win the MVP award ‘that counts’
“You are seeing this completely upside down, because, to me, all that really matters is what’s about to happen here in Houston, Texas, at 6:30 ET.
Your focus all week has been upside down because it’s been on your neighbor in Atlanta, Georgia, Matt Ryan. My focus all week, in fact, all season, has been on the man who should have won the regular-season MVP - and who will win the MVP that counts, which is the Super Bowl MVP.
And I’m talking about Tom Brady."
Kirby LeeKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Skip: Tom Brady was the deserving MVP
"So what just happened was that Matt Ryan winning MVP by a landslide vote of 25-10 - it was a runaway - that is big advantage Tom Brady.
Tom Brady wasn’t able to play the first four games, we know why. All he did was throw 28 touchdowns to only two interceptions in the regular season. And meanwhile, just for the record, as great a year as Matt Ryan had - he was 38 touchdowns to seven interceptions - he lost three home games, including one to the San Diego Chargers who went 5-11. And one to the Kansas City Chiefs because what happened at the end of that game?
Matt Ryan, now the quote unquote “MVP,” on a two-point conversion pass, threw it right to Eric Berry who ran it all the way back for two points the other way. Game over, Kansas City won at Atlanta. That’s the MVP?”
Geoff BurkeGeoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Skip: Winning the MVP doesn't bode well for Ryan
“Tom Brady knows exactly why now he did not win MVP. He was better and yet he knows that he was suspended for four games because he was wrongfully accused by the NFL. The NFL tried to sacrifice Tom Brady’s legacy at the age of 39, the reputation he built over 17 years playing in the NFL in order to punish the Patriots for their larger history of cheating. It was directed at Tom Brady, and now guess what? He will be even further fueled with what I call Jordan-esque rage, channeled rage, because he knows he should have won the regular season MVP.
… The last seven quarterbacks that won the regular-season MVP lost the Super Bowl. So way to go, Matt Ryan, you just lost the Super Bowl."