We are halfway through the 2018 NFL season, and it’s the point in the season where we can legitimately start talking about the MVP award. It’s a loaded race and the most recent odds were released just recently, and they reaffirm what most of us thought: it’s a two-headed race.
The two guys at the top have had the most outstanding seasons while having the team record to boost their case, which puts them at the front, while the closest person to them is having a great year with a great team record, yet is still a while back. Everyone else (Jared Goff, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Philip Rivers) are in the third tier.
Here’s a look at the favorites for the awards right now.
Patrick Mahomes, Quarterback, Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes has set the NFL world ablaze. He sat as a rookie behind Alex Smith last season but the Chiefs believed he was ready to take over the reins of the team in 2018. There was lots of intrigue behind the Kansas City offense before the season, and primarily because of Mahomes.
What we have seen has been more than blowing away expectations. It’s historic. The second-year quarterback has thrown for 2,526 yards, 26 touchdowns, and six interceptions on a 65.6% completion rate through eight games while leading the Chiefs to a 7-1 record.
He is on pace to break 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, which would put him in all-time great company. According to Pro-Football-Reference, only two players in the history of the game have thrown at least 50 touchdowns in a season while averaging at least 300 passing yards-per-game on at least a 65% completion rate. They are Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
And only Peyton Manning has thrown for at least 5,000 yards, 50 touchdowns, and completed at least 65% of his passes in a season, which came back in 2013. That year, the future Hall-of-Famer passed for 5,477 yards and 54 touchdowns while completing nearly 69% of his passes.
Mahomes is in that company, and it’s coming in what is virtually his rookie season. His excellent season has made him the favorite to win the 2018 NFL MVP award.
And it’s not impossible to imagine him continuing his torrid play. Team record plays a huge factor in the award’s voting, and when you combine it with historical numbers, it’s a virtual lock.
Of the remaining eight games, the Chiefs play the Cleveland Browns once, Arizona Cardinals once, and Oakland Raiders twice. Combined, the trio has a 5-19-1 record.
Two other games come against fringe playoff contenders in the 4-3 Seattle Seahawks and 4-4 Baltimore Ravens. Another game comes against the high-flying 8-0 Los Angeles Rams in Mexico City. But, the Rams have a suspect secondary which has been picked apart many times this season. And another game comes at home against the 5-2 Los Angeles Chargers whom the Chiefs dropped 38 points on during their Week 1 matchup.
You also have to remember that he is playing in Andy Reid’s excellent scheme while having (arguably) the NFL’s best tight end in Travis Kelce, an elite running back in Kareem Hunt, the league’s fastest player in Tyreke Hill, and a big, physical downfield threat in Sammy Watkins.
This is the perfect storm for Mahomes. Everything is falling into place. He may slow down next season, but that’s a 2019 problem. In 2018, 12-to-13 wins are conceivable, and when you combine that with what we expect his numbers to end up at, and the MVP mainly going to quarterbacks, it’s hard not to bet on him.
Todd Gurley, Running Back, Los Angeles Rams
If anyone is going to challenge Patrick Mahomes, it’s going to be the NFL’s best running back. Only five running backs have won the award in the 21st century, and Todd Gurley had an excellent case to make it six last season.
But Tom Brady had an excellent season, and there is a bias in favor of passers, so it was hard not to give it to him. Gurley ended up having to “settle” for the 2017 Offensive Player of the Year.
He compiled 2,093 yards from scrimmage and 19 scores, becoming just one of two players to rush for at least 1,300 yards, receive at least 750 yards, and score at least 19 touchdowns.
And 2018 has been even better, with a league-leading 1,151 total yards from scrimmage (143.9 yards-per/game) and an NFL-best 15 touchdowns. Gurley is on track to challenge LaDainian Tomlinson’s all-time season record of 31 touchdowns in a season while also cracking 2,300 yards from scrimmage.
If his pace holds up, he will join Tomlinson as the only guys to hit not just 30 touchdowns, but 30 touchdowns while hitting 2,000 yards from scrimmage simultaneously. The Rams offense has the image of a flashy, finesse, high-paced, explosive unit that is similar to a complex air-raid attack. But, at its root, Los Angeles is a power running team.
The offense is built around the NFL’s best ground game, which is led by the NFL’s rushing leader. Jared Goff will get a lot of hype, and deservedly so because he is the pulse of the system. But, nothing gets done without its core, Todd Gurley.
He opens up the game for his quarterback by taking pressure off him. Because of Gurley, the Rams can control the clock and the tempo of the game. The 24-year-old is the best player on the game’s best team, and without him, the Rams would be hard-pressed to find themselves in the position they find themselves in.
And fun fact, Todd Gurley has outscored the entire Buffalo Bills team by himself, while being just ten points shy of the Tennesse Titans and 14 short of the Arizona Cardinals.
The Dark-Horse: Drew Brees, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints
Believe it or not, Drew Brees has never won an MVP award. The future Hall-of-Famer and former Super Bowl MVP, with the passing yards record and other all-time great numbers, has never won an MVP.
With his numerous seasons of leading the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns, he surprisingly has yet to collect this silverware. The 39-year-old has had the misfortune of playing in the shadows of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers at their peaks while playing on mediocre Saints teams at the same time.
And 2018 is more of the same, as he is playing from behind against Patrick Mahomes and Todd Gurley. But, don’t get it twisted. Drew Brees is capable and a very worthy candidate for the MVP award. He’s just not the flashy pick, nor does he have the narrative piece working in his facor (yet).
He’s thrown for 1,990, 14 touchdowns, and just one interception through seven games. Yes, one. He is tied with the best interception percentage with Aaron Rodgers while leading the lead with a 77.4% completion rate, which would be the highest ever if it stood.
And these numbers take into account his last showing where he threw for just 120 yards, a touchdown, and his first interception. That means he started his first six games without a pick.
Brees has the best passer rating among full-time starters while leading the New Orleans Saints to a 6-1 record, and has the chance to make a huge statement this weekend in a heavyweight matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. If he performs up to par and defeats the undefeated Rams, it would add a signature piece to his MVP resume.