With a pair of drives at Arrowhead Stadium, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers gave himself a chance to finally win an MVP.
Rivers’ Chargers trailed the Kansas City Chiefs 28-14 in the final minutes of Week 15 until he led a touchdown drive to cut Kansas City’s lead to seven points with less than four minutes left, then hit Mike Williams for a touchdown and game-winning two-point conversion with four seconds left to shock the Chiefs. It pulled the Chargers into a first-place tie with the Chiefs in the AFC West.
Until then Rivers had been one of those “you have to include him in the MVP conversation” players, someone who was having a very good season but no realistic shot at the award. Now he might have a realistic argument.
Rivers needed something on his resume to push past Patrick Mahomes, or even the suddenly quiet Drew Brees. A No. 1 seed in the AFC would be his argument, if there is one. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to judge a quarterback based solely on standings, because football is a team game. But it happens. If voters prefer Rivers over Mahomes because the Chargers beat the Chiefs for the division (Los Angeles still likely needs a Seattle win over Kansas City on Sunday; read our guide to which teams need what to happen in Week 16), that might matter.
I don’t think it will play out this way, even if the Chargers beat out the Chiefs. Mahomes has been the better player all season, and I’d hate to think an MVP would be decided on a horrendous measure like QB wins. But it’s not like Rivers doesn’t have a case. His numbers (3,951 yards, 31 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 112.4 passer rating) have been great, even if Mahomes’ have been better. But Rivers needed something to differentiate himself in the race and rallying to win the AFC West could be it, if the Chargers pull it off. Rivers is truly in the conversation now, not just as a contrarian angle.
But, like the Chargers themselves, Rivers probably needs Los Angeles to win out, and then still get some help.
Here are the MVP standings for this week:
1. Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes — Mahomes needs 457 yards and five touchdowns to get in the 5,000-50 club. That has been done once, by Peyton Manning in 2013. All of his advanced stats are off the charts. He clearly passes the eye test. Even if the Chargers win the AFC West, I don’t see a great argument for Rivers over Mahomes. Though we’re likely to hear them.
2. New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees — At the end of November, it looked like Brees would be hard to catch for MVP. In figuring out how anyone could beat overtake him, one of the possibilities was if he or the Saints slumped. The Saints have been fine, but Brees’ numbers over the last three games haven’t been: 531 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions, 77 passer rating. Brees hasn’t thrown for more than 203 yards in a game since Nov. 18. The Saints keep winning and that’s what matters most, but it seems likely the raw numbers won’t be there for Brees to beat out Mahomes. Still, the entirety of Brees’ season is really good.
3. Los Angeles Chargers QB Philip Rivers — Rivers has a higher completion percentage than Mahomes and they each have 8.8 yards per attempt. Mahomes has 69 more attempts, which accounts for some of the disparity in yards and touchdowns. I’m not saying I buy that the only difference between Mahomes and Rivers is that Mahomes gets more attempts, but I’m guessing we hear a lot of arguments for Rivers if they win the AFC West.
4. Los Angeles Rams DT Aaron Donald — I was hoping Donald would make an unlikely late push for MVP. It would have been a fun story. But the Rams lost twice, Donald was held without a sack in both games, and that’s that. A defensive player needs a perfect season to get any consideration (as we’ve seen, you can have the best season for a defensive player in decades and still not win), and Donald fell off the pace.
5. Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley — Gurley needs 169 yards to get 2,000 from scrimmage for the second straight season. The Rams will probably have something to play for in Week 17, because the Bears are only a game back and could steal the No. 2 seed if the Rams lose another game. He has 21 touchdowns. There have been only 12 instances of a player getting 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in a season, and the list includes some of the greatest running back seasons in NFL history.
And here are the rest of the major awards …
Defensive Player of the Year: My guess is Aaron Donald has done enough to win this award, but I wouldn’t have any problem if someone voted for Khalil Mack. Both have had amazing seasons. I wanted to get Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones in the third spot on this list because he has had an amazing and consistent season, but J.J. Watt has been a little better.
1. Los Angeles Rams DT Aaron Donald
2. Chicago Bears DE Khalil Mack
3. Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt
Coach of the year: I’ll still go with Andy Reid for now, because I think the Chiefs get the AFC West title and he deserves a lot of credit for Patrick Mahomes’ development. But unlike any other award, this is always reserved for something new and shiny and not necessarily the best coach. I think Matt Nagy will end up winning, but my own ballot would have Reid (I like Anthony Lynn of the Chargers too … it’s really a stacked list of deserving candidates that probably runs seven or eight deep).
1. Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid
2. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton
3. Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy
Offensive rookie of the year: Phillip Lindsay became the first undrafted offensive rookie to make the Pro Bowl, which is an amazing story. Saquon Barkley has been the better player but Lindsay has been fantastic too.
1. New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley
2. Denver Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay
3. Indianapolis Colts G Quenton Nelson
Defensive rookie of the year: Darius Leonard was probably snubbed for the Pro Bowl. However, remember that when you hear about snubs, you rarely hear who should be removed from the Pro Bowl roster to make room for someone like Leonard. Still, he’s having a magnificent season and a Pro Bowl or eight is in his future.
1. Los Angeles Chargers S Derwin James
2. Indianapolis Colts LB Darius Leonard
3. Denver Broncos OLB Bradley Chubb
– – – – – – –