ATLANTA -- Ask anyone in the Atlanta Falcons' organization, and they'll say quarterback Matt Ryan is the NFL's MVP.
Yes, they're biased. But considering the jeers Ryan and the Falcons were receiving after last season, the Falcons have made a huge leap just one year later to clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC and return to the playoffs for the first time in four years.
It's in large part because of Ryan, and the voters have noticed.
"I look at the MVP selection process over the league, and I think Matt is the MVP of the National Football League," Falcons owner Arthur Blank said after the team's win over the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome.
MVP chants reverberated around the Dome throughout the game. Ryan threw for 331 yards and four touchdowns, all to different receivers. He's thrown a career-high 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns, leads the league in passer rating and led the offense to a franchise record 540 points, shattering the old record by 98 points.
"It feels pretty good," Ryan said about hearing the chants. "It was a pretty cool moment out there today."
Running back Devonta Freeman, who had 96 rushing yards in the game including a 75-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, said he joined in when he heard the chants.
"I was telling the fans to keep going, going," Freeman said. "He's always been my MVP. I look up to him."
USA TODAY Sports surveyed its writers before Sunday's game, and Ryan leads in their MVP vote. But nothing is for sure. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has had a remarkable season, even more so considering he was suspended for the first four games of the season because of his involvement in Deflategate. He has a touchdown to interception ratio of 28-to-2, a new NFL record.
Some believe Brady is deserving to win the honor for a third time in his career. But Freeman isn't afraid to do some convincing for his teammate.
"Numbers don't lie. Look at his numbers. We're winning," he said. "It don't get no better than stats.
Julio Jones isn't afraid, either, and he's willing to take numbers out of it.
"Just his leadership qualities he has, the way he comes to practice everyday, he doesn't get complacent. He just comes to work everyday," Jones said. "For us, it doesn't really matter to us what people think about us or the Atlanta Falcons."
Head coach Dan Quinn has seen the work Ryan's put in over the course of the last year to help this team improve.
"When we apply the term 'Can you get one percent better' to already a really good player, sometimes the ceiling to get through the next level can be really challenging. He's totally done that," Quinn said. "I think that speaks for itself on how hard he's worked for it and has not backed off."
Ryan's not a braggadocios guy. He's modest and deflects the praise he receives to his teammates. He's just been enjoying getting the wins, he said.
"It's funny how that correlates with having fun. For sure, it's been a fun year. We've done some good things on the offensive side of the ball. But the most important thing is all the things we've done has given us an opportunity that we have now, and at the end of the day, that's what you work hard for," Ryan said.PHOTOS | Matt Ryan has MVP-caliber season