With the calendar now turning to November, the halfway mark of the NFL season is now behind us. So far, most of the season has gone as expected: New England is on top of the AFC, the Browns are on the bottom and the AFC South is still a mess.
However, we have had some surprises in the first half that no one could see coming. All the teams in the NFC East are .500 or better, the 2016 Carolina Panthers are nothing like their 2015 counterpart, and the Falcons are for real.
And inevitably, we’re already hearing familiar names being thrown around for individual awards like New England’s Quarterback, Tom Brady. But that's not as interesting as the curve-balls.
In this list we go through the players who have either elevated their game or have rebounded from a poor year that aren’t getting the recognition they properly deserve.
Yes, Ryan’s name is being thrown around a bit for the MVP Award and yet, even with that he had to be added to this list. It may seem like ancient history now, but it wasn’t long ago when Ryan was considered only to be an average quarterback, and it was hard to argue with the evidence.
Although he was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2008 and had already been to three Pro-Bowls, the memory of Ryan unsuccessfully leading his 13-win 2010 and 2012 Atlanta Falcons teams to a Super Bowl appearance were too strong for anyone to consider Matt Ryan to be at the level of an elite QB.
It even got to a point after the last three years of missing the post-season that I heard from many people close or in the NFL saying that Ryan wasn’t much more than an average QB.
Then this year rolls around. Ryan turns 31, the prime age for most pocket quarterbacks, and everything changes. Ryan is now posting career-high numbers for himself. He’s second in the league in passing yards per game with 331 yards and currently is rated with a grade of 82.3 in ESPN’S Total QBR, ranked third behind only Tom Brady and Dak Prescott.
If Atlanta can continue this roll they’re on, then Ryan has a chance to go from an average quarterback in people’s mind in 2015, to league MVP in 2016. However, if he fails to lead Atlanta to a Super Bowl, you can guarantee the doubt will start to leak back in again.