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NFL MVP watch, Week 8: Patrick Mahomes is closing the gap

While the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player is struggling, the 2018 winner is making a strong case to reclaim the award.

Here’s a look at who’s trending up in the race for MVP through Week 8:

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1. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (last week: No. 1)

If there was any doubt that Wilson was slipping a bit after last week’s overtime loss to the Cardinals, he put those fears to bed. Wilson threw four touchdown passes in a 37-27 win over the 49ers, extending his league-leading total to 26 for the season. He’s thrown at least three touchdown passes in all but one game this season, and has thrown at least four in four games. On Sunday, he joined Dan Marino and Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to throw 250 touchdown passes in their first nine seasons, and is still on pace to threaten Manning’s record for most touchdown passes in a season (55). Receiver DK Metcalf said it best: “The Russ for MVP train is back on the tracks.”

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2. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (last week: No. 4)

Mahomes predictably torched the Jets defense on Sunday, throwing for 416 yards and five touchdowns in a 35-9 win, earning the highest passer rating of the week. The 2018 MVP now has 21 touchdown passes to just one interception, becoming the first player in NFL history to have 20 touchdown passes and one interception or fewer through the first eight games. He ranks second in the league in passing yards (2,315), passing touchdowns (21) and passer rating (115.0) and is the only player to rank in the top three of each category. The race between Wilson and Mahomes is going to come down to the wire.

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

Not to be forgotten, Rodgers threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns in the Packers' 28-22 loss to the lowly Vikings, just their second defeat of the season. Green Bay’s offense struggled in the second half, turning the ball over on downs twice before Rodgers was strip-sacked on a hit from behind in the final seconds. Still, he was Pro Football Focus' third highest graded passer in Week 8, behind Wilson and Mahomes, and he ranks fourth in the expected points added (EPA) plus completion percentage over expectation (CPOE) composite ranking put together by Ben Baldwin of The Athletic. His touchdown pass to Davante Adams off his back foot late in the game is proof that Rodgers' touch remains elite.

4. Buccaneers QB Tom Brady (last week: No. 3)

It wasn’t pretty, but the Bucs squeaked past the Giants, 25-23, on Monday night behind their star quarterback to move to 6-2 and keep pace with Green Bay and Seattle for the top seed in the NFC. Brady threw two touchdown passes in the second half, including the go-ahead score to Mike Evans with nine minutes left, and finished with 279 yards. His 18 touchdown passes rank fourth in the league, and he’s only thrown two picks in his past seven games. In the third quarter, he threw his 93rd career touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski, breaking a tie with Steve Young and Jerry Rice for the second most by a quarterback-receiver combo in NFL history. Oh, and he led another second-half comeback. Of 72 quarterbacks who have trailed at halftime in at least 50 starts, Brady’s win percentage of .432 in such games (32-42) is the third highest, behind only Russell Wilson (.454) and Joe Montana (.451).

5. Cardinals QB Kyler Murray (last week: not ranked)

The top dual-threat quarterback in the league might reside in the desert. After a bye, Murray and Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson have both played seven games this season, and the Cardinals star has the edge over the reigning MVP in rushing yards (437), rushing touchdowns (seven), passing yards per attempt (7.3) and passing touchdowns (13). Arizona’s next five games — vs. Dolphins, vs. Bills, at Seahawks, at Patriots, vs. Rams — will go a long way toward determining Murray’s MVP candidacy.

Colts quarterback Philip Rivers throws during the first half Sunday in Detroit.
Colts quarterback Philip Rivers throws during the first half Sunday in Detroit. (Duane Burleson/AP)

In the running

Bills QB Josh Allen

Since his torrid start, Allen has fallen back to earth. The third-year quarterback threw for 154 yards on 18 passes in Sunday’s 24-21 win over the Patriots, an average of 8.6 yards per attempt, but he failed to throw a touchdown pass for the second straight week and recorded his fifth interception of the season. He rushed for 23 yards and a touchdown to help keep the offense moving, but it wasn’t an MVP-caliber performance. He needs to be better to get back in the race.

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger

Roethlisberger might not have the stats to compete with the players at the top of this list, but his team is the only one that hasn’t lost yet. In a 28-24 win over the Ravens, Roethlisberger threw the go-ahead touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, his second of the day, and consistently neutralized the Ravens' pass rush with quick passes. He’s tied for seventh in the league with 15 touchdown passes and might just lead Pittsburgh to the NFL’s best record when it’s all said and done.

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Colts QB Philip Rivers

Indianapolis quietly moved to 5-2 with a 41-21 win over the Lions, and Rivers had his best game to date in a Colts uniform. The 38-year-old threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns, spreading the ball to 11 different receivers. Sure, two of his touchdown passes went to running back Nyheem Hines, but Rivers was accurate all game long and showed off his signature touch on swing passes. If the Colts can beat the Ravens, Titans and Packers over the next few weeks, Rivers will be in the conversation.

Titans QB Ryan Tannehill

Tennessee lost its second straight game, 31-20 to the Bengals, but it wasn’t Tannehill’s fault. The veteran quarterback threw for 233 yards and two touchdowns, though his early interception in the end zone cost the Titans valuable points. Losing to Cincinnati, which entered Sunday’s game with just one win, hurts Tannehill’s MVP chances, but Tennessee is still tied with the Colts for the top spot in the AFC South. Tannehill’s numbers this season — 67.4% completion rate, 17 touchdown passes, three interceptions while ranking second in EPA/CPOE composite — are still top-notch, and he gets a few more marquee games against the Colts, Ravens and Bears to prove himself.

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