Matt Ryan won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award after an outstanding season that saw the Atlanta Falcons go 11-5 and earn the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Ryan posted career highs in completion percentage (69.9), passing yards (4,944), touchdowns (38) and threw a career-low seven interceptions. After a breakout campaign the NFL’s MVP is due for regression.

For a player to win the MVP award just about everything has to go right for the individual and their team. Ryan had a career year and the Falcons improved by three wins and won their division for the first time in four seasons. Last year’s MVP Cam Newton set career-highs in touchdowns and the Panthers started the season 14-0. The year before that Aaron Rodgers took home the hardware throwing 35 touchdowns against 5 interceptions a season after playing just nine games and the Packers won the NFC North for a fourth straight year.

You get the point, a player needs an exceptional if not career-year to win the award. What goes up must come down. It is called a career-year for a reason; MVP’s tend to regress the following season. How big of a step back will Matt Ryan take in 2017?

To get an idea we analyzed every quarterback that won the award since 1990 and compared how they performed the year they won the MVP to the following season. There were two instances where the MVP played only one game the next season (Tom Brady, 2008) or didn’t play at all (Joe Montana, 1991) so we used the stats from the season after the injury for the analysis.

On average, quarterbacks throw for 14.8% fewer yards (630), 24.5% fewer touchdowns (8.9) and 15% more interceptions (1.7). If these trends hold, Ryan will throw for 4,212 yards, 28.7 touchdowns and 8.1 interceptions in 2017, which would be in line with his career averages of 4,189 yards, 26.7 touchdowns and 12.7 interceptions.

Quarterback performance and team success are tied together. On average, NFL teams score 10.8% (51.1) fewer points and win 21.7% (2.85) fewer games the season after their quarterback wins the MVP. Also, only 75% of teams return to the playoffs the year after their quarterback wins the award.

This is not to say that every quarterback regresses after they win the MVP. Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Steven Young all improved upon their award winning seasons, they are also the only players to win the award in consecutive years since 1990.

Matt Ryan is the reigning Most Valuable Player. He should enjoy the honor because when football resumes this fall he is unlikely to reach the same lofty heights as he did this season. Regression is coming.


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Average quarterback regression after winning the MVP

Passing YardsTouchdownsInterceptions
-14.8%-24.5%+15.0%

Average team regression after QB wins MVP

Team PointsTeam Wins
-10.8%-21.7%