The debate between Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers for the 2020 NFL Most Valuable Player award is heating up, but there’s a third candidate who could vault himself into the discussion with a strong final push.
Here’s who’s trending up in the race for MVP through Week 14:
1. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (last week: No. 1)
Mahomes still has the top spot, but the gap between him and Aaron Rodgers is narrow. The Chiefs star threw three interceptions in a 33-27 win over the Dolphins on Sunday but still led his team back from an early 10-0 deficit, finishing with 393 passing yards and two touchdowns. His 2,309 passing yards in his past six games are the most in any six-game span in NFL history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, breaking the previous record of 2,276 set by Drew Brees from 2012 to 2013. Of course, he also remains the league’s comeback king. ESPN’s Field Yates noted that since the start of 2019, the Chiefs are 8-1 (.888) with Mahomes after falling behind by 10 or more points, while the rest of the NFL is 68-356-1 (.160) combined when trailing by 10 or more during that same period. With stats being relatively equal, perhaps Mahomes having more “MVP” moments than Rodgers this season, including signature wins over the Ravens, Bills, Buccaneers and Raiders, is what gives him the nod in the end.
2. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (last week: No. 2)
With an efficient performance in a 31-24 win over the Lions (26-for-33 passing for 290 yards and four total touchdowns), Rodgers leads the league in passing touchdowns (39) and has the fewest interceptions (four) among quarterbacks who have attempted at least 200 passes this season, with the exception of Drew Brees. He’ll soon become the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 40 or more touchdown passes in three seasons, and the oldest to do so at age 36. Outside of a subpar game in a blowout loss to the Buccaneers in Week 5, he’s been unstoppable. In the expected points added plus completion percentage over expectation composite rankings put together by Ben Baldwin of The Athletic, Rodgers maintains a slim lead over Mahomes (0.215 vs. 0.201). And thanks to the Saints’ loss Sunday to the Eagles, the Packers (10-3) have a strong chance to finish as the NFC’s top seed.
3. Bills QB Josh Allen (last week: No. 3)
While the debate will rightly be focused around Mahomes and Rodgers during the final three weeks, Allen has put himself in the discussion with a few more strong performances. In his past five games, he’s completed 71.5% of his passes, averaged 7.6 yards per attempt and has thrown 12 touchdown passes to just four interceptions. The lone loss during that stretch came to the Cardinals on Kyler Murray’s Hail Mary touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins. Allen doesn’t quite have the same numbers as Mahomes or Rodgers (28 touchdown passes, nine interceptions, 7.38 adjusted net yards per attempt), but he’s led the Bills to the cusp of their first division title since 1995 and has shown immense improvement as a passer. He’s also offered value on the ground, rushing for 350 yards and six touchdowns (His 35 total touchdowns this season are a franchise record). The Bills (10-3) would need to sweep the Broncos, Patriots and Dolphins with Allen putting up some of the biggest statistical performances of his career for him to seriously be in consideration, but the fact that he sits just behind two of the best to ever play the position should not be lost among NFL fans.
4. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (last week: No. 4)
Every player listed from here on out is basically an honorable mention, but Wilson deserves as much. With four touchdown passes against the lowly Jets on Sunday, he’s up to 36 this season and is within reach of becoming the 10th quarterback to throw 40 in a season. A midseason rash of turnovers and sloppy play cost him the award, but he’s still among the league’s most efficient passers while throwing at a higher volume than ever before. Wilson ranks fourth behind Mahomes, Rodgers and the Titans’ Ryan Tannehill in EPA/CPOE composite, and while QB wins aren’t a meaningful stat, he’s the first quarterback in league history to have a winning record in each of his first nine seasons.
5. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (last week: No. 5)
Roethlisberger had a chance to put himself higher in this discussion before Pittsburgh crashed to earth with two straight losses. The Steelers’ quick passing game failed to deliver against Washington and Buffalo, and while drops have been one of the biggest reasons, Roethlisberger himself hasn’t been as accurate as he needs to be to make this offense work. In Sunday night’s loss to the Bills, he completed 56.8% of his passes and averaged just 5.1 yards per attempt. To make matters worse, five of his nine interceptions have come in the past four games. Roethlisberger needed a strong end to the season to vault himself into the conversation alongside Mahomes and Rodgers, but he has struggled, and Pittsburgh is suffering for it.
Texans QB Deshaun Watson
A quarterback on a losing team is never going to win this award, but if it’s meant to honor the most valuable player, it’s hard to find someone more valuable than Watson. If he’s removed from this Texans team, Houston is probably picking first overall in the 2021 draft (a pick, by the way, it owes to the Dolphins for the Laremy Tunsil trade). Watson is sixth in EPA/CPOE composite, has thrown 25 touchdown passes to just six interceptions and is averaging a league-best 8.7 yards per attempt after losing All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins in an ill-advised trade. He’s the only reason the Texans general manager and head coaching jobs are attractive.
Cardinals QB Kyler Murray
Murray threw for 244 yards and a touchdown in a 26-7 win over the Giants to end a three-game losing streak and keep the Cardinals’ playoff hopes alive. He has 712 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground this season, by far the most among quarterbacks, and 23 touchdown passes to 10 interceptions. Though he won’t get any MVP consideration after falling off down the stretch, leading this team to a playoff berth in a stacked division like the NFC West is still a commendable accomplishment for the 23-year-old.
Buccaneers QB Tom Brady
Brady had just 196 passing yards in a win over the Vikings on Sunday, his second lowest output of the season, but also threw two touchdown passes to give him 30 on the season, fourth most in the league. Tampa Bay’s offense hasn’t blown anyone away, but the Bucs are 8-5 and will likely end a 12-season playoff drought. Not bad for a 43 year old.