Travis Kelce had 10 receptions and 159 receiving yards in the Chiefs’ win on Sunday, his 3rd career game with at least 10 receptions and at least 150 receiving yards. That is tied for the most games by any tight end in the Super Bowl era with former Raiders All-Pro Todd Christensen and Hall of Famers Shannon Sharpe and Kellen Winslow.
MVP: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Runners-up: Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers
Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers also have strong MVP cases. Mahomes ranks second in touchdown passes, and has warped defenses so thoroughly that even Kansas City’s prolific running performances are a testament to how opponents focus on him. Rodgers is third in touchdown passes and ranks higher than Wilson in passer rating, ESPN’s total quarterback rating, and adjusted net yards per attempt. Rodgers has shown that he remains an elite quarterback after the Packers traded up to pick Jordan Love in the first round of this year’s draft, and, like Wilson, he isn’t getting much help from his defense.
By any measure, Wilson, Mahomes, and Rodgers are the three best quarterbacks in the sport right now, but separating greatness at this level requires nitpicking. The Seahawks ask more of Wilson than any other team asks of its quarterback. He has delivered emphatically.
But Mahomes has reached that LeBron James status for me, where if he is out there and fully healthy, he’s my default MVP. Which just so happens to be easily backed up statistically. He is the first player in NFL history to have 25 touchdown passes to only one interception through nine games in a season.
And he’s right near the top of every other leaderboard sporting a QBR of 87, a rating of 116, and throwing for 300 yards a game. Not to mention the Kansas City Chiefs are 8-1. Plus, it feels like Mahomes is just warming up, and he certainly doesn’t have any flat out bad games like say Rodgers did against the Bucs.
His coach Andy Reid says we’re seeing his best right now, and at his best, there’s never been anyone better. So, I’m not going to pretend anyone else is more valuable and become numb to the standard he’s already set.
1 - It’s a one team league with the Chiefs and everybody else
This is a lot easier to say after the Steelers barely scraped by an awful Cowboys team and the Bucs were embarrassed by the Saints on Sunday night football, but a narrow home victory against an average Carolina team along with Pittsburgh’s still-perfect record might convince a not-insignificant number of football observers to believe there’s competition for the title of the NFL’s best team.
I’d argue that what we saw on Sunday further proves the Chiefs are a tier above the other 31 teams in the league. Kansas City did not play particularly well compared to their lofty standards and everything went right for the Panthers. It didn’t matter, as the Chiefs came away with another victory, their 17th over the last 18 games.
Levy had used the old-school Wing-T at New Mexico in the late 1950s and at the University of California in the early 1960s, but stayed away from it during his time in the Canadian Football League because in the CFL, you only have three downs. But when he became the Chiefs’ head coach, he decided to revise the formation, which includes three running backs: A traditional fullback and halfback, and a “wingback,” a running back who lines up just behind the formation and outside of the tight end. There are different iterations, but that’s the basic idea.
The Chiefs opened their 1978 season against the Bengals in Cincinnati, and it wasn’t as if the Wing-T was a surprise — Kansas City had run it in the preseason, and the Bengals, led by head coach Bill Johnson (who Paul Brown picked to be the team’s head coach over his former offensive coordinator, a guy named Bill Walsh), had studied to try and figure out how to stop it.
Whatever the Bengals tried didn’t work. The Chiefs won, 24-23, running the ball an astonishing 69 times for 267 yards, 26 first downs, and three touchdowns. The Chiefs possessed the ball for 41 minutes and 46 seconds.
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Winner: The 2018 Heisman Race
My two favorite football players are Kyler Murray and Tua Tagovailoa. I’ve been yelling about Tua since his very first college game—actually, slightly before that—and I’ve been yelling about Kyler since people thought he was going to play professional baseball. On Sunday, they played for the first time in the NFL, and it was basically my personal Super Bowl but played at 4 p.m. during Week 9. Despite both players being on teams that have recently been bad, it was a game with somewhat serious NFL playoff implications: Both the Dolphins and Cardinals were on three-game win streaks and between a game and a game and a half back of the lead in their respective divisions.
Simply put, the Kyler-Tua Bowl ruled. Both quarterbacks displayed their unique running styles, which was particularly fun to watch since Tua’s mobility was in question after the hip injury that ended his college career.
2) On at least this lone Monday night in the fall of 2020, it looked as if the Jets would rejoice. Winless no more, conquered no longer by their Bostonian nemesis, the Jets would have their first victory and would snap a streak of struggles against their hated rival. Nope. New York is still the only winless team in the NFL, but this one felt different. For a good portion of Monday, the Jets played inspired ball and made a game nobody expected much from an entertaining and dramatic affair. They fought. And they still came up empty. Week after week, the Jets were closer to a comedy act than a team just coming up short. But this one hurt. There are no easy answers and little consolation on this night. In the fourth quarter, the Jets had the ball for just 1 minute and 24 seconds and had only 78 yards of offense in the second half. The Jets’ best showing of the season came and went in the first half on Monday night, a 20-10 lead slipping away into a three-point loss as time ran out. In a season of distress, this might’ve been the toughest defeat to stomach yet, because it was the closest to victory.
The NFL has existed for more than 100 years and in that time, no team had ever done what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did on Sunday. During the Buccaneers’ 38-3 loss to the Saints, Tampa Bay somehow only managed five rushing attempts, which set the NFL record for fewest rushing attempts in a game.
To say Tampa Bay gave up on the run would definitely be an understatement, because it was worse than that. It was almost like the Bucs forgot the run existed. After calling two run plays in the first quarter, they would only call two for the rest of the game. The crazy thing is that Tampa Bay was on track to finish the game with just four rushing attempts, but it ended up reaching five because Blaine Gabbert’s kneel down on the final play of the game counted as a rushing attempt.
Here’s what the box score looked like for the Bucs at the end of the game:
Ronald Jones: Three carries for 9 yards.
Leonard Fournette: One carry for 0 yards.
Blaine Gabbert: One carry for -1 yard.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Travis Kelce: Another 10 catches and 159 yards for the Chiefs’ most reliable offensive weapon and the best tight end in football. He is a winner nearly every week, but Sunday was a particularly excellent performance by Kelce in moving the chains. Covered, double-covered — it doesn’t matter, and Mahomes knows it.
Tyreek Hill: Two scores against Carolina to go with nine catches, netting 113 yards for Hill. His ability to make defenders look laughably slow is a joy to watch every week.
Patrick Mahomes: It wasn’t his best day all around, but again, when he had to put the offense on his back and carry it, he did so — and with style. Oh, and he broke another record this week. It’s mind-boggling that he’s averaging 2.5 touchdowns per game in his entire NFL career.