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Despite the Falcons' march to the NFC playoffs, quarterback Matt Ryan might not be a lock for the rookie of the year award.

It appears to be a three-player race among Ryan, Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco and Tennessee running back Chris Johnson.

"It's something that I haven't really given much thought to," Ryan said. "I think there have been a lot of guys who have played well this year."

Also, Denver wide receiver Eddie Royal and Chicago running back Matt Forte are worthy of consideration.

Ryan, Flacco and Johnson have helped their teams clinch playoff berths. Denver and Chicago are still fighting to make the postseason.

"This year, there has been a very deep class of rookies in terms of their production and value, but I think it all boils down to the two quarterbacks --- Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco," NFL Network's Terrell Davis said. "Both have strengths in terms of weapons on their team that have helped them win games. Ryan has Michael Turner, and Flacco has the Ravens defense."

The race may be too close to call.

"I think it's a toss-up between Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. They've both been incredible assets to their teams," the NFL Network's Marshall Faulk said.

Ryan has clauses in his contract that call for him to receive $1 million if the Falcons win the Super Bowl. He's gets $100,000 for a first-round playoff win, $200,000 for a divisional-round win and $400,000 for making the Super Bowl.

Flacco, by playing more than 80 percent of the snaps, triggered an escalator clause, which gives him an additional $750,000 in base salary in the final four years of his five-year contract. That's a $3 million bonus. He gets another $200,000 per playoff victory.

"I'm sure you guys will compare us for the rest of our careers. We're obviously in the same draft class and started from day one," Flacco told the Carroll County (Md.) Times. "But I'm not going to pay too much attention to that. We'll see how it works out."

Because of the rarity of rookie quarterbacks coming into the league and having early success, Johnson's fine season might get overlooked. The rookie from East Carolina has rushed for 1,228 yards and nine touchdowns.

"Although their numbers are similar, my selection has to be Matt Ryan," said Davis, the former Denver running back and University Georgia standout. "I like the way he handles things. He's like a veteran and stays calm under pressure."

Faulk is going with Flacco.

"Flacco came into a team with such a solid defense, so there was a lot of pressure for him to play well," Faulk said. "Flacco also didn't inherit the starting job like Matt Ryan did. Flacco came into training camp and competed to get the position and has delivered."


Matt Ryan

* Draft spot: First round, No. 3 overall

* Key stats: Has completed 255 of 413 passes for 3,280 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions

* Rookie of week: Twice (Weeks 6 and 15)

Joe Flacco

* Draft spot: First round, No. 18 overall

* Key stats: Has completed 240 of 405 passes for 2,674 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions

* Rookie of week: Once (Week 8)

Chris Johnson

* Draft spot: First round, No. 24 overall

* Key stats: Is sixth in the league in rushing with 1,228 yards and has nine touchdowns

* Rookie of week: Twice (Weeks 7 and 9)

Eddie Royal

* Draft spot: Second round, 42nd overall

* Key stats: Has caught 80 passes for 904 yards, debunking the theory that it takes receivers three years to blend into an offense.

* Rookie of week: Twice (Weeks 1 and 10)

Matt Forte

* Draft spot: Second round, 44th overall

* Key stats: Is eighth in the league in rushing with 1,188 yards and has eight touchdowns.

* Rookie of Week: Once (Week 12)

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 28, 2008

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