MVP: Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Chiefs
In the half-dozen seasons that I’ve been covering the league, I can’t remember a tighter race for the NFL’s top award. Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes II have been the rightful MVP favorites for most of the season, and they’ve gone back and forth at different points in the year. Mahomes got out to an early lead as his offense scorched the league and New Orleans swooned against inferior opponents. But after a few recent stumbles by Kansas City and some crucial drives orchestrated by Brees, things are neck-and-neck heading into the final week of the season. So let’s parse this out a bit.
1) Patrick Mahomes, quarterback, Kansas City Chiefs
Drew Brees has thrown 32 touchdown passes this season. Philip Rivers has tossed 31. Mahomes has 31 -- on the road alone. In his first year as an NFL starter, Mahomes not only has 12 more touchdown passes than the next-closest quarterback (Andrew Luck, 36), he’s also finding the end zone at a higher rate (8.6 percent of passes) than Peyton Manning did (8.3 percent) in setting a record with 55 touchdowns in 2013. You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t hold it against Mahomes when he scores more than 35 points and stakes his team to a fourth-quarter lead, only to see his defense collapse with the game on the line.
“People are laughing at Arrowhead Stadium right now,” Brandt said. “Barbecue this and tailgate that, every January they show up and lose, and I don’t like it. I want to see them do something about it. I want them to be home, I want them to get the demons out...”
A fan asked Johnson is the fan noise really made a difference for players and he wrote: “’Energy can neither be created or destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one party to another.’ - To answer your question YES.”
This is simple: The Chiefs win and they earn both the AFC West title and the No. 1 seed in the conference. Now, the simplest way to do that is to run on these Raiders often. Teams have employed the ground forces at will on Oakland, making third downs quite manageable. This is part of the reason why Jon Gruden’s team ranks 30th in third-down defense. Damien Williams’ workload aside, Patrick Mahomes is just 184 pass yards away from 5,000 and just two throwing touchdowns shy of 50.
“Some guys become a distraction, and that’s not what he was,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said of Scandrick. “He tried, as much as he wanted to play, he still helped out with the young guys, which I appreciated.”
Ford has piled up 12 sacks and forced six fumbles in a contract year, giving the Chiefs a tough but welcome financial decision to make this offseason. Jones has at least one sack in an NFL-record 11 consecutive games and his 15½ this season is second only to Rams star Aaron Donald.
Around the league
Foles outpaces the NFL in game-winning drive percentage
If it seems like Foles is always bringing his best under the brightest lights, that’s because he is. Here’s a look at how he’s fared over his entire two-stint career with the Eagles (2012-2014, 2017-present):
Total starts: 31
Total game-winning drives: 10
Rough percentage of starts with game-winning drives: 32.3%
This season has proven that prospect to be much more realistic than previously imagined, largely because, well, Gronk doesn’t look much like Gronk anymore. His recurring injuries -- chiefly, his back -- seem to have taken a toll on how he can perform physically, and as a result, he’s not a big part of New England’s game plan.
Roethlisberger leads the NFL with 4,852 yards and can become the first Steelers quarterback to win the league passing title. His 33 touchdown passes is a Steelers record, as are his 421 pass completions. He needs another 111 yards to snap his own single-season record he set in 2014 with 4,952 yards.
Oklahoma QB and all-around athletic marvel Kyler Murray is a throwback, good enough at football to win the Heisman Trophy and lead his team to the CFB playoff, and good enough at baseball to get selected by the Oakland A’s with the ninth overall pick in the most recent MLB Draft. With that high selection, Murray earned a $4.6 million signing bonus, and he told the A’s upon signing said deal that he’d report to the team after playing out his last year with Oklahoma.
“You hope you get to exit on your own terms. You hope to exit with a great win,” said Watson, who won his only Super Bowl ring while on injured reserve as a rookie with the New England Patriots in 2004.
The biggest impact is immediate in NFL front offices, particularly with quarterback-starved franchises like Denver, Miami, the New York Giants, Jacksonville, Washington and potentially Oakland. Those are spots that would prefer to build through the draft and have lost the most coveted option to do so.
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
The Kansas City Chiefs have signed running back Damien Williams to a two-year contract extension worth $8.1 million, as first reported by Terez Paylor of Yahoo! Sports.
Sammy Watkins was the only player on the Chiefs’ 53-man roster who was unavailable on Thursday. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who is in his three-week designate-to-return window, does not appear on the injury report.
While it didn’t attract a lot of attention by itself, it did put him over a milestone. Kelce now totals 1,274 receiving yards in 2018, which set a new franchise record for a Chiefs tight end, exceeding the previous mark of 1,258 set by new Chiefs Hall of Fame inductee Tony Gonzalez in 2004.
Here is where the problem lies: in the past four weeks, the Chiefs have played four teams that run a lot of similar defensive concepts. All of them play a lot of single-high shells and try to mix man, static zone and pattern match zone from it. The issue the Chiefs are having offensively is a failure to attack these tendencies. The Chiefs are calling their game, running their system, and asking their players to just out-execute a defense — regardless of where the advantage lies schematically.
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