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NFL MVP watch, Week 15: What’s going to settle the debate between Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers?

With just two weeks left to decide the NFL Most Valuable Player award, the winner is still up for debate. What’s going to separate Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers when voters have to choose?

Here’s who’s trending up in the race for MVP through Week 15:

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

2020 stats: 67.3% comp., 8.2 yards/attempt, 36 TD passes, 5 INTs, 8.50 ANY/A, 0.341 EPA/play, +3.7% CPOE; 287 rushing yards, 2 TDs

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In a possible Super Bowl preview, Mahomes completed 26 of 47 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns in a 32-29 win over the Saints, tightening the Chiefs’ grasp of the No. 1 seed in the AFC. New Orleans entered the game ranked first in Football Outsiders’ DVOA and second in defensive efficiency and Mahomes was still his usual dominant self. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Chiefs have faced a top-five defense nine times with Mahomes as their starter and are 9-0 in those games while averaging 29.0 points. The 25-year-old is on pace to join Drew Brees as the only players in NFL history with multiple 5,000-yard seasons. He’s the betting favorite to win the MVP, but there will be a fierce debate over the final two weeks between him and Rodgers.

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

2020 stats: 69.6% comp., 8.0 yards/attempt, 40 TD passes, 4 INTs, 8.66 ANY/A, 0.351 EPA/play, +6.0% CPOE; 126 rushing yards, 3 TDs

Rodgers didn’t make a compelling case to overtake Mahomes in Sunday’s closer-than-expected 24-16 win over the Panthers, completing 20 of 29 passes for just 143 yards and one touchdown. The 37-year-old also ran for a 6-yard touchdown, but was sacked five times. He threw his eighth 1-yard touchdown pass of the season, four more than any other quarterback, but he’s also delivered 11 touchdown passes of more than 20 yards, tied for the most in the league. In addition to his eye-popping raw numbers, Rodgers has also been one of the league’s most efficient passers. In the expected points added plus completion percentage over expectation composite rankings put together by Ben Baldwin of The Athletic, Rodgers is No. 1. He became the first quarterback in league history to throw 40 or more touchdown passes in three different seasons, and is Pro Football Focus’ highest graded player at any position this year.

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

2020 stats: 68.7% comp., 7.8 yards/attempt, 30 TD passes, 9 INTs, 7.55 ANY/A, 0.269 EPA/play, +5.9% CPOE; 383 rushing yards, 8 TDs

Allen dominated in Thursday night’s 48-19 win over the Broncos, completing 28 of 40 passes for 359 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Bills to their first AFC East title since 1995 — a year before Allen was born. He also rushed for 33 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for seven or more touchdowns in three straight seasons. He’s having one of the best starts to a career in league history, joining Cam Newton and Daunte Culpepper as the only players with 60 or more passing touchdowns and 20 or more rushing touchdowns in their first 45 games. He earned his first Pro Bowl selection this week and might have made the jump from Tier 3 (No. 22 overall) to the exclusive Tier 1 — a group that includes Mahomes, Rodgers, Brees, Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson — in Mike Sando’s annual quarterback rankings.

4. Titans QB Ryan Tannehill (last week: not ranked)

2020 stats: 66.5% comp., 8.1 yards/attempt, 31 TD passes, 5 INTs, 8.30 ANY/A, 0.359 EPA/play, +3.3% CPOE; 173 rushing yards, 4 TDs

While running back Derrick Henry might receive more MVP consideration, Tannehill has been more important to the Titans’ success. The former Dolphins first-round pick completed 21 of 27 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday’s 46-25 win over the Lions, marking his fifth straight game with a passer rating over 100, the longest active streak in the league. He also ran for two touchdowns, much to the chagrin of Henry fantasy owners. The Titans are the No. 1 offense in EPA per play through Week 15 and Tannehill is second behind Rodgers in the EPA/CPOE composite rankings. Here’s a fun little comparison: In Mahomes’ and Tannehill’s past 24 starts, Tannehill has a higher passer rating (114 vs. 105.9), more total touchdowns (61 vs. 56) and a higher completion rate (67.7% vs. 66.4) than the 2018 MVP while throwing the same number of interceptions (10). His breakout 2019 season clearly wasn’t just a flash in the pan.

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

2020 stats: 70.2% comp., 7.8 yards/attempt, 37 TD passes, 13 INTs, 7.00 ANY/A, 0.205 EPA/play, +7.6% CPOE; 475 rushing yards, 1 TD

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Wilson delivered a pedestrian performance in Sunday’s 20-15 win over Washington, completing 18 of 27 passes for 121 yards, one touchdown and one interception while rushing for 52 yards. The Seahawks still clinched a postseason berth for the eighth time in nine seasons under Wilson, who avoided a sack in consecutive games for the first time in his career. This season will be remembered as a “what if” after Wilson’s torrid start on the heels of the “Let Russ Cook” movement, but he still put together one of his best years as a pro to earn his seventh Pro Bowl selection.

Honorable mention

Cardinals QB Kyler Murray

Murray had one of his best games Sunday, completing 27 of 36 passes for 406 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in a 33-26 win over the Eagles. He also rushed for 29 yards and his 11th touchdown of the season, tied for second in the league behind Dalvin Cook and Derrick Henry. With his 61st career touchdown, he joined Dan Marino (70) and Cam Newton (62) as the only players in NFL history with at least 60 in their first two seasons. The 23-year-old earned his first Pro Bowl selection this week, one of many likely to come.

Buccaneers QB Tom Brady

Just as he did in Super Bowl LI, Brady engineered another big comeback against the Falcons, completing 31 of 45 passes for 390 yards and two touchdowns to rally from a 17-0 deficit to secure a 31-27 win. With Brady at the helm, Tampa Bay has a 99% chance to make the playoffs per FiveThirtyEight’s odds, which would end a 12-season drought.

Texans QB Deshaun Watson

Watson had another spectacular performance in a losing effort, completing 33 of 41 passes for 373 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-20 defeat to the Colts. That he earned a Pro Bowl nod, his third straight, alongside Mahomes and Allen shows just how good he’s been for a 4-10 team.

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