Not long ago, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was the odds-on favorite to win the league MVP award. Now, after missing two games and more than half of a third, his candidacy faces an uphill climb.
But he’ll be back on Sunday at Tennessee, and despite the time he has missed Mahomes still has a chance to take the award for a second straight year.
In his absence, players like Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, and Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson have seen their chances increase, with Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and Saints receiver Michael Thomas also lingering in the conversation.
Mahomes has fallen to 15th in passing yards, and he’s tied for seventh with 15 passing touchdowns. But he’s capable of closing ground quickly, and with seven games left Mahomes can climb back to the top of the list. Also, if the 6-3 Chiefs can narrow the gap on the 8-1 Patriots and 6-2 Ravens and take one of the two AFC playoff byes, Mahomes will be taken even more seriously.
Still, the fact that he missed more than 1/8th of the season won’t help, especially since the other finalists likely will have played in all 16 games. No MVP has played fewer than 15 games since the late Steve McNair shared the award with Peyton Manning in 2003; that year, McNair missed two games due to injury. From 2004 through 2018, only one MVP — Aaron Rodgers in 2011 — missed a single game, and Rodgers was rested in Week 17 after the Packers had clinched the No. 1 seed.
So it won’t be easy for Mahomes to overcome the lost time, but Mahomes possesses the kind of skills that will generate highlights and numbers and wins and basically everything needed to vault him back into the discussion.