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Clayton: Matt Ryan is the No. 1 MVP Candidate

Now that we've passed the midway point of the NFL season, the MVP talk is starting to heat up.

With 23 touchdown passes, a 6-3 record and a chance to eclipse 5,300 passing yards this season, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan remains at the front of the conversation.

Ryan has the eighth-highest passer rating through nine weeks of any quarterback since 1960, according to Pro Football Reference.

ESPN senior writer, John Clayton, breaks down the MVP race (Insider account required) and why Ryan is his No. 1 candidate at this point of the season:

Why he's an MVP candidate: With Tom Brady missing four games, Ryan was the clear MVP of the first half of the season, according to the execs. He's directing the league's highest scoring offense (33.9 points per game) and is on pace for a 5,300-yard passing season. After a rough first year with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in 2015 -- Ryan threw 16 interceptions, and the Falcons went 8-8 -- their two minds are in sync. Ryan is getting more no-huddle type plays. The offense has been spectacular.

What execs are saying:

• "What I like with Matt Ryan this year is his consistency. He's been consistently good since the first game of the season."

• "He's moving the football as well as anyone."

• "You have to consider Matt the first-half MVP. His numbers are too good."

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