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It’s a bit strange, but Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw for 478 yards and six touchdowns in his last game and probably lost ground in the MVP race.
During the New Orleans Saints’ 10-game winning streak, Drew Brees became the consensus frontrunner for the MVP award. The question becomes whether Mahomes or anyone else can close the gap. Brees’ surprisingly quiet game in a 13-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night should help.
The reason Mahomes lost some ground is in that great game against the Los Angeles Rams, he turned the ball over five times. None of the turnovers were egregious, but it’s still five turnovers. Brees has three turnovers in 12 games. There’s a great case to be made for either quarterback, but it’s hard to argue against Brees’ efficiency over the course of the season.
Brees has never won an MVP and is leading the pack this season, so what could cost him the award? Let’s take a look:
The Saints could slump: This didn’t seem possible before Thursday night. But the Cowboys upset the Saints and if New Orleans loses another game or two and the top seed to the Rams, it will factor in. Quarterback wins is not a real stat, but if the Chiefs or the Rams win out while the Saints stumble in December? It will matter. Especially if Brees has more individual games like he did against Dallas (127 yards, one touchdown, one interception).
Brees gets hurt: This isn’t pleasant to think about, and Brees is an ironman behind a great offensive line. But it was about this time last year when Carson Wentz looked to be a co-favorite with Tom Brady, then he tore his ACL. It’s football, and injuries happen.
Mahomes breaks records: Records always play well in the voting. Mahomes is on pace for 5,276.8 yards and 53.8 touchdowns. If he has a big December and beats Peyton Manning’s records of 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns, that will become his argument. A quarterback breaking single-season records for passing yards and passing touchdowns on a No. 1 seed would be hard to deny.
Someone else gets really hot: There are more than a few Major League Baseball MVPs who have won the award in September. Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich won the MVP due in large part to a huge finish. The NFL is pretty good about avoiding the recency bias mentality, but sometimes it factors in. Maybe the Chargers win out in December without Melvin Gordon for a few games; Philip Rivers would then be in the conversation. Or the Rams take the No. 1 seed with either Todd Gurley or Jared Goff having a huge final month. They’d get some publicity. It seems unlikely someone could come from out of nowhere to steal the award, but not impossible.
Also let’s not ignore that Brees will get a bit of a bump because he is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever and has never won. Voters won’t want Brees to finish his legendary career without an MVP.
But it’s not a lock yet, especially after Thursday night. Maybe we’ll get a really good MVP race through December.
Here are the MVP standings for this week:
1. Brees – Even before Thursday night I didn’t think there should be a big gap between Brees and Mahomes. But Brees is clearly deserving, if he wins.
2. Mahomes – It really is hard to believe a quarterback who posts 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns on an unexpected No. 1 seed wouldn’t win MVP.
3. Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley – Most of the MVP talk now focuses on the two aforementioned quarterbacks and then other quarterbacks like the ones listed below. It’s a shame that anyone who doesn’t play quarterback is basically eliminated from the MVP race before the season starts. Gurley should absolutely be in the MVP race, especially if he helps the Rams overcome the Saints for the top seed. But if that happens Jared Goff will likely get more MVP votes anyway, and I don’t think that’s right.
4. Los Angeles Chargers QB Philip Rivers – It’s an annual conversation that is a pet peeve. Rivers honestly isn’t an “MVP candidate” right now. If the voting happened today, he wouldn’t get a vote from someone who takes such things seriously. He’s having a fine season, perhaps his best one. But he’s not going to get any votes ahead of Brees or Mahomes, so is he really an MVP candidate?
5. Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck – It’s pretty amazing what Luck has done after missing last season. While the Colts have improved the roster it’s still not great. Yet they might make the playoffs. Luck reestablishing himself as one of the NFL’s marquee players is one of the best stories in the league.
Defensive Player of the Year: I maintain that Aaron Donald should get MVP consideration. If he can reach 20 sacks from defensive tackle, it’s every bit as impressive as someone like Patrick Mahomes throwing 50 touchdowns. But, it won’t happen. He’s not a quarterback.
2. Chicago Bears DE Khalil Mack
3. Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt
Coach of the Year: This is always a weird award, in every sport. It’s given to the coach of the team that most exceeds preseason expectations … although maybe just preseason predictions were wrong? Matt Nagy is probably going to win the award because the Bears weren’t expected to be great this year but will win the division. That doesn’t make it right. I don’t know what the argument, other than relying on preseason predictions, is for Nagy over someone like Sean Payton or Andy Reid.
1. Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid
2. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton
Offensive Rookie of the Year: The argument really isn’t if New York Giants star Saquon Barkley should be rookie of the year, it’s whether he’s the greatest rookie running back ever. He’s right there with some great rookie running back seasons like Jim Brown in 1957, Earl Campbell in 1978, Barry Sanders in 1989, Edgerrin James in 1999 or Adrian Peterson in 2007. What we’re seeing is special.
2. Indianapolis Colts G Quenton Nelson
3. Denver Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay
Defensive Rookie of the Year: This is still a fascinating race. Chargers safety Derwin James had another interception last week and is simply a fantastic player. So is Colts linebacker Darius Leonard, who came back from an injury scare to have 10 tackles and a sack against Miami. Can we split this award?
3. Broncos OLB Bradley Chubb
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