Matt Ryan Is the Best Quarterback Tom Brady Has Ever Faced in a Super Bowl

How exactly does Ryan's MVP-worthy season stack up against the other quarterbacks Brady has faced in his previous Super Bowl appearances?

Matt Ryan's fantastic regular season play has bled into the playoffs, as he has led the Atlanta Falcons to their first Super Bowl berth in 18 years and only their second in franchise history.

And while this is a spot Tom Brady has been in before (six times to be exact), there’s a first for everything: Ryan might be the best quarterback Brady has ever faced in a Super Bowl.

Ryan's Regular Season

What Ryan did this season was truly remarkable.

He paced the league with a 117.1 passer rating, the fourth-highest mark in a season in NFL history (minimum 400 attempts). Ryan averaged the highest yards per attempt (9.26) of any quarterback ever with 400-plus attempts in a single season.

He also bested his own franchise record for touchdown passes with 38 (32 previous) and became the first player in NFL history to throw a touchdown pass to 13 different players in a season.


Playoff Improvement

This isn’t Ryan’s first postseason experience, but what makes this round different for the Falcons’ quarterback is that he’s been able to shake the playoff cobwebs which have seemingly haunted him his entire career.

Prior to this season, Ryan owned a 1-4 career playoff record with an average of 246.0 passing yards per game and a 9-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

This postseason, he’s averaging 365 passing yards per game through two playoff contests with 7 passing touchdowns, no interceptions, and a rushing touchdown on top of it.

So the question remains: just how does Ryan stack up against the other quarterbacks that Brady has faced in his six career Super Bowl appearances?

We dusted off some vital efficiency metrics like Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) and Passing NEP per drop back to find out. For a better understanding of what these metrics mean, check out our glossary.

Player (Team) Regular Season (SB) Passing NEP
Passing NEP/P
(NFL Avg.)
Matt Ryan (ATL) 2016 (LI) 212.86 (1st) 0.37 (0.12)
Russell Wilson (SEA) 2014 (XLVII) 47.65 (15th) 0.10 (0.08)
Eli Manning (NYG) 2011 (XLVI) 95.65 (8th) 0.16 (0.05)
Eli Manning (NYG) 2007 (XLII) -46.01 (34th) -0.08 (0.03)
Donovan McNabb (PHI) 2004 (XXXIX) 108.34 (6th) 0.22 (0.03)
Jake Delhomme (CAR) 2003 (XXXVIII) 11.45 (15th) 0.02 (-0.01)
Kurt Warner (STL) 2001 (XXVI) 145.17 (1st) 0.25 (-0.02)

Clearly, Ryan is by far the best quarterback that Brady has ever gone up against in a Super Bowl based on Passing NEP.

Kurt Warner is really the only guy who comes close with his awesome 2001 season performance, the only other Passing NEP leader Brady has faced, but he threw 22 picks that season. He did play higher above the league average in his Super Bowl year (0.27 over the average) than Ryan did (0.25), but in terms of sheer production, Ryan has them all topped.

And seriously, get that 2007 Eli Manning season out of here.

With the two best quarterbacks of the 2016 regular season by Passing NEP per drop back preparing to duke it out, there are more than a handful of reasons to expect Super Bowl LI to be a high-flying offensive affair on both sides of the ball.