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A wasted opportunity: Patrick Mahomes still has work to do in MVP race

Kansas City’s star quarterback missed a chance to remain the odds-on favortie to be named the league’s MVP.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports

“The Michael Jordan of the sport just jumped over two guys!” exclaimed CBS commentator Tony Romo as Kansas City Chiefs‘ quarterback Patrick Mahomes leaped into the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon.

Was this Mahomes’ signature MVP moment? Finally defeating the Bengals in their own stadium as the Chiefs became the first AFC team to reach 10 wins?

Everything seemed to be in place for Mahomes and his teammates to cruise into January with the AFC’s top seed — and for the quarterback to have the MVP award locked up before Christmas.

Then adversity struck.

The Kansas City defense was unable to completely contain the Bengals — and Travis Kelce fumbled away the game. What should have been the lasting image of the game quickly became an afterthought in a 27-24 loss that seemed all too familiar to Chiefs fans.

The MVP award has always tended to be about counting stats among the league’s quarterbacks — but there often seems to be room for some defining moments from these players. And on Sunday, the Chiefs wasted a good one.

The Contenders

During the last two weeks, the field for the MVP race has definitely closed in on Mahomes. After two passing touchdowns, a rushing touchdown and an interception in the last two games, Mahomes’ pace has slowed. Nor does it help that Mahomes has also lost head-to-head matchups against two of the other contenders for the award.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen began the season as the MVP favorite. Though he’s still having a strong season, interceptions have hurt his passer rating and QBR numbers. In order for him to win the award, he’d likely need to pass Mahomes in passing touchdowns — and probably lock up the AFC’s top seed.

Except for total passing yardage, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow’s stats are very comparable to Mahomes’ numbers. Burrow has a better surrounding cast — and has had an easier schedule to date. But with his head-to-head victory — along with a strong finish against an equally strong end-of-season schedule — he could surge past Kansas City’s quarterback.

Finally, there’s Philadlephia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts — who seems to be the race’s most difficult player to gauge. He’s having an incredible season, leading the Eagles to an 11-1 record. While he certainly has the least impressive passing numbers among the contenders, he has also had a large impact on Philadelphia’s running game. He has become the league’s most dynamic dual-threat quarterback.

What does Mahomes need to do?

Given Kansas City’s remaining schedule, Mahomes’ path to the MVP award sets up nicely. Facing the Denver Broncos (3-9) twice, the Houston Texans (1-10-1), the Seattle Seahawks (7-5) and the Las Vegas Raiders (5-7) creates juicy opportunities to stack statistics and wins. But it’s probably also going to require that the Chiefs do something they do only rarely: dominate a game. While it’s likely Kansas City will win all of these games, the team will need to win them convincingly in order to help Mahomes’ MVP case.

And while Kansas City has wasted Sunday’s MVP moment, Mahomes has still collected plenty of them — including the comeback against the Los Angeles Chargers, the touchdown run against the Tennessee Titans, the dominant win against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the second half against the San Francisco 49ers.

Now is the time for the offense to rack up some big numbers against lesser teams, improving the team’s confidence as it heads into the playoffs. There’s just no reason to be in a 14-13 cage match with Russell Wilson’s Broncos because head coach Andy Reid is playing ultra-conservatively with both the play sheet and his personnel. The Chiefs should go out and dominate these bad teams.

The stage is set for Patrick Mahomes to have a bright finish in 2022. All that needs to happen is for Mahomes — and the Chiefs — to take advantage of the opportunity now before them.

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