The AP Laboratory
Hours before the Kansas City Chiefs boarded a flight to Oakland on Saturday, coach Andy Reid stood in front of the entire squad — 50-plus men — in a meeting room at the team’s practice facility and delivered a message.
The Chiefs always meet as a team on the Saturday before a Sunday game, often so Reid can deliver a few final points. However, the circumstances the team found itself in at the time — smack dab at the epicenter of controversy surrounding its ex-star running back, Kareem Hunt — was far from ordinary, so much so that a player felt compelled to address the team as well.
That player was quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Now, Mahomes has 41 touchdowns — nine more than Luck and 11 more than Brees. With the Los Angeles Chargers breathing down the Chiefs’ neck in the AFC West, expect Mahomes to keep the pedal to the metal for the last four games of the season. That means Mahomes looks likely to become the third quarterback ever to eclipse 50 touchdowns in a season.
However, the Ravens have something to hang their hats on – the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense. It’s No. 1 vs. No. 1.
Baltimore just held the high-powered Atlanta Falcons to 131 yards total offense during a 26-16 victory on Sunday. Playing the Chiefs (10-2) raises the challenge for Baltimore’s defense to another level, one that safety Eric Weddle embraces.
Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes (884,888 votes) ranks second overall, while Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (747,516 votes), New York Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley(718,108 votes) and Pittsburgh running back James Conner (664,897 votes) round out the top five.
“He’s a great quarterback,” Jackson said of Mahomes. “I was at the Steven Clarkson Camp with him. I seen him throwing and stuff. He was a great quarterback.”
The Chiefs have struggled on defense; they’re ranked 31st in yards allowed, are giving up the most yards per carry in the NFL and the most passing yards per game. But Kansas City is in the top-10 in turnovers, and they can get after quarterbacks with pass rushers Justin Houston and Dee Ford.
It’s not just Jackson that has to focus on ball security. Running back Kenneth Dixon put the ball on the turf in Atlanta, and Jackson and running back Gus Edwards have had a couple botched hand-offs.
In his 17 career starts for the Chiefs, the former LSU standout has been a consistent part of the passing game as a receiver. He’s had at least one catch in 16 of those games and two or more in 11 others, including his seven-catch, 129-yard receiving performance against the Chargers to start the 2016 season.
After finishing as CBS Sports’ unanimous choice for MVP on our last two ballots, the Saints quarterback has been overtaken by Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has all of a sudden replaced Brees as our unanimous selection. Entering Week 14, all five of our NFL writers here at CBS Sports placed Mahomes atop their MVP ballots and slotted in Brees at second, which is the exact opposite of how the past two weeks went when Brees garnered all first-place votes and Mahomes received every second-place vote. This remains a two-man race, but just when it seemed like the order wouldn’t flip, Week 13 happened.
Around the league
The move to Jackson was made out of necessity, with Flacco’s injury. But the Ravens were 4-5 with Flacco, who had a modest passer rating of 84.2.
”It didn’t look good,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph told reporters after practice. Joseph wouldn’t confirm the nature of the injury, but said Sanders was scheduled to undergo an MRI. Joseph said Sanders had been feeling sore in his “heel area” last week, but was feeling better before practice Wednesday.
Donald and Mack have proved to be worth every bit of their colossal deals, elevating the defenses for two of the NFC’s best teams and Super Bowl contenders. As they share a stage in a big Week 14 matchup on Sunday night, here’s a look at just how special each player has been this season.
“I do. Just have to show coach,” Trubisky said Wednesday, via NFL Network’s Stacey Dales. “I feel confident that I’ll be ready to go.”
Speaking prior, Matt Nagy wouldn’t state unequivocally that his starting quarterback would return after sitting out two games with a shoulder injury but sounded optimistic. The coach just wanted to see his starter on the practice field first.
These are pleasant surprises, but not all of 2018’s unexpected runs have been positive. We’re here to examine some busts through 13 weeks. We’re not necessarily saying these players are terrible, but they’ve all fallen short of high expectations—be it from the draft, free agency or injury return.
Jared Goff and Mitchell Trubisky actually lived together over the summer while they trained with the same quarterback coach. Now they each lead a team at the top of their respective divisions.
”It was fun,” Trubisky said, via 247Sports. “It was a good time. We were just out there relaxing in the offseason. Training a little bit. Got to know him. We are pretty tight, good friends. He’s an awesome dude. We pushed each other in the offseason.”
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
Somewhere in the cloud of news surrounding the Kansas City Chiefs, there is a football game this week, and an important one at that when it comes to the 2018 NFL season.
With a win or tie against the Baltimore Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs, at 11-2 willclinch a playoff spot.
Safety Eric Berry continued practicing on Wednesday, albeit limitedly. Berry practiced limitedly all last week before being ruled questionable for the game against the Oakland Raiders, then missing the game entirely. It remains to be seen if he will participate in his first full practice of the regular season this week.
After missing practice all last week, wide receiver Sammy Watkins returned for the Chiefs on Wednesday.
On this week’s episode of the AP Laboratory, we discussed the offseason plans to replace Kareem Hunt.
We all agreed that any significant investment in a free agent isn’t something we’re particularly interested in. Apologies to the Le’Veon Bell fans out there. I just don’t see that happening.
Craig, Matt and I each wrote up a little bit about a running back we’re interested in.
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