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NFL MVP watch, Week 13: It’s a two-horse race between Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers

Only four weeks remain in the NFL season, which means the race for the Most Valuable Player Award is coming down to the wire.

Here’s who’s trending up through Week 13:

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1. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (last week: No. 1)

A Chiefs win over the Broncos combined with the Steelers’ loss to Washington means Kansas City is tied for the best record in the NFL and can potentially steal the top seed in the AFC and a first-round bye from Pittsburgh. If the Chiefs do that, Mahomes might not be denied a second MVP award. He’s thrown 31 touchdown passes to just two interceptions this season and is one of just two players to have thrown at least one touchdown pass in every one of his team’s games this season (Ben Roethlisberger is the other). The numbers are going to be close at the end between Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers, so the Chiefs’ record might end up being the deciding factor for a lot of voters. Beating the Saints in Week 15 in a possible Super Bowl preview might be what seals the deal for the 2018 MVP.

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2. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (last week: No. 2)

For as good as Mahomes has been this season, there’s an argument to be made that Rodgers has been even better. He leads the league in touchdown passes (36), has thrown just four interceptions and ranks first in the NFL in the expected points added (EPA) plus completion percentage over expectation (CPOE), composite rankings put together by Ben Baldwin of The Athletic. It shows just how valuable he has been to a team that’s 9-3 and within a game of the Saints for the top seed in the NFC. The 37-year-old hit a career milestone Sunday with his 400th touchdown pass, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history with 50,000-plus passing yards, 400-plus passing TDs and 3,000-plus rushing yards.

3. Bills QB Josh Allen (last week: No. 4)

In a prime-time Monday night win over the 49ers, Allen showed why he’s MVP material. He finished 32-for-40 passing for 375 yards, becoming the first Bills quarterback with an 80% completion rate and four touchdowns in a game. He has delivered a remarkable season, having entered the game ranked fourth in EPA/CPOE composite and ninth in adjusted net yards per attempt. His running ability is not to be overlooked either, with 322 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. It should also be noted that games like Monday night are no longer a surprise for Allen; he has four games this season with at least 300 passing yards and three touchdowns. The 24-year-old has an uphill climb to catch Mahomes and Rodgers, but he’s not as far behind as you might think.

4. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (last week: No. 3)

Wilson’s MVP campaign took a major hit Sunday as the Seahawks fell to the Giants, an 11-point underdog, in large part because of an anemic performance by the Seattle offense. Wilson completed just 27 of 43 attempts for 263 yards, one touchdown and one interception and couldn’t deliver the game-winning score in the final minutes. His numbers for the season — 32 touchdown passes, 11 interceptions, 5.1% CPOE, 7.09 ANY/A — still rank among the best in the league, but he’s failed to deliver the type of record-breaking season he was on pace for. To make matters worse, he has the most turnovers in the league (12) since Week 7. Barring a wild finish, the year of letting Russ cook won’t be capped with an MVP award.

5. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (last week: not ranked)

This might be a strange week for Roethlisberger to finally crack the top five in this discussion after the Steelers’ head-scratching loss to Washington on Monday night, but that defeat wasn’t entirely on Big Ben (and there aren’t much better options for the fifth spot). The Steelers receivers had at least five drops a week after dropping seven passes against the Ravens, and while Roethlisberger couldn’t deliver in the fourth quarter, his quick passes were the only reason Pittsburgh was moving the ball after it abandoned the running game early. While his total numbers have been solid (258.8 yards per game, 27 TDs, 7 INTs), the advanced stats (-0.7% CPOE, 10th in EPA/play) reveal a quarterback closer to league average than elite. If the Steelers finish 15-1 and claim the top seed in the AFC, Roethlisberger has at least earned mention alongside the names above him on this list. But he hasn’t earned much more than that.

In the running

Raiders QB Derek Carr

Carr isn’t the type of quarterback who normally generates much MVP buzz, but his season deserves to be commended. With a 46-yard touchdown pass to Henry Ruggs III in the final seconds Sunday, he salvaged a 31-28 win over the hapless Jets to keep the Raiders in the AFC playoff race. Of course, his own misgivings are part of the reason why Las Vegas is 7-5 and still fighting for a spot, but he’s been solid, if unspectacular.

Buccaneers QB Tom Brady

Brady lost his best chance at getting back in the MVP discussion when the Bucs lost to the Chiefs last week. Still, the 43-year-old has a chance to help Tampa Bay end a 13-year playoff drought, one of the longest in sports. He’s clearly helped build a contender, even though he’s still trying to find his way in coach Bruce Arians’ offense before the postseason begins.

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Vikings QB Kirk Cousins

Don’t laugh. The Vikings have won five of their past six games, and Cousins has delivered 15 touchdown passes to just two interceptions during that span while averaging 8.5 yards per attempt. He also leads the league in CPOE at 5.6%, a sign of his value over replacement level. Minnesota has the final wild-card spot, and Cousins is a big reason why.

Texans QB Deshaun Watson

There’s no chance of the quarterback on a 4-8 team being seriously in the discussion, but Watson at least deserves mentioning. He’s playing some of the best football of his career, throwing 24 touchdown passes to just five interceptions while rushing for 331 yards and three touchdowns — just slightly less than the 452 yards and four touchdowns on the ground delivered by running back David Johnson, who was acquired in the disastrous Deandre Hopkins trade. He ranks fifth in the NFL in EPA/play and is tied for fifth in CPOE, and is the only reason this Texans team is even remotely competitive.

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