Dec 2, 2018; Oakland, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) prepares to throw a pass against the Oakland Raiders in the third quarter at Oakland Coliseum.

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Mahomes is the MVP now, but Brees can still win it

Analyzing the battle for NFL MVP

Seth Dunlap
December 12, 2018 - 2:29 pm
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As the NFL season races towards its finish, so does the battle for the league's MVP award.  Two candidates have raced ahead of the pack for months now and both continue to be clear front runners to win the award.  

Saints quarterback Drew Brees battles with Chiefs phenom Patrick Mahomes in one of the most hotly-debated MVP races in recent memory.  Brees, who has amazingly never won the award during his first-ballot Hall of Fame career, is the sentimental fan favorite but Mahomes continues to put up video-game-like numbers that are impossible to ignore.

Last month, I tweeted this out in looking at the state of the Brees-Mahomes MVP race:

At that point, Brees should have been the clear front-runner.  Some hot-take opinion heads thought otherwise, but it was pretty clear that Brees was out in front. Mahomes had the (slightly) better statistics at that point but the eye test wasn't close.  Brees was the maestro orchestrating a Saints' offense that, to that point, had been nearly flawless.  Brees himself had been nearly flawless to that point, with only one turnover on the season.   Things have changed since then.

This won't be popular opinion to the ravenous Saints fans reading this, but Mahomes has vaulted himself back ahead of Brees in this race.   I'm not here for popular opinion.  I'm here for objectivity and truth, and the truth is Mahomes is winning this battle right now.

The statistical disparity in two major categories is too imbalanced to ignore:

  • Touchdown passes:  Mahomes 43 - Brees 31
  • Passing yards:  Mahomes 4,300 - Brees 3,463

When you factor in the eyeball test, things also work out in Mahomes' favor.  These two plays he made on Sunday could be exhibit A & B on his MVP candidacy. 

That first play was a 4th-and-9 game saving throw, while running to his right and throwing across his body, from Mahomes.  Could anybody else in the league make that throw?  Maybe Aaron Rodgers.  Maybe.  

The second throw was a no-look absurdity that Mahomes has actually done a few times before going back to his college days at Texas Tech.  No-look passes don't count any more for QB statistics than regular throws do, but style points do count in an MVP race this close.

That's not to say the MVP race is over.  Drew Brees leads Mahomes in a few critical statistical categories as well:

  • Completion %:  Brees 75.7% - Mahomes 66.8%
  • QB Rating:  Brees 120.8 - Mahomes 115.2
  • Interceptions:  Brees 4 - Mahomes 11

That last category could be biggest factor working against Mahomes in this debate.  He had five turnovers in a critical prime-time loss to the Rams earlier this season, and may be approaching, or eclipsing, 20 turnovers (interceptions & fumbles) by seasons end. 

Drew Brees also still has two national television games to move himself past Mahomes and back into the top spot.  The Saints play the Panthers on Monday Night Football this week then have a critical home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers next week.  If Brees plays exceptional football the next two weeks, and Mahomes struggles in his games against the Chargers and Seahawks, both playoff teams, then it's likely Brees will wind up winning this award after all.

There is one key place that still heavily favors Drew Brees in this MVP race -- Las Vegas.  The sports books have Brees as a -400, or 1-4, favorite to win the award.  Mahomes is +250, or 2.5-1.  

However, Mahomes should be the front runner for the NFL MVP award right now.   He is a fascinating, sensational young talent who has the Chiefs unexpectedly in position for the top overall seed in the AFC.  The race isn't over, but it's his to lose.

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