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Cleveland On The NFL MVP

NFL MVP, who you got?

You ask me it comes down to New Orleans Saint Drew Brees, who will turn 40 next month, and 23-year-old marvel Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs. (Keep in mind, because of early holiday deadlines, this is written before the last weekend of the season.)

Yes, in other seasons cases could be made for Seattle’s Russell Wilson and San Diego’s Philip Rivers. But what Mahomes and Brees have done this year, in my mind, out-paces all the rest. Both have had remarkable seasons. Mahomes makes plays that remind this writer of three-time MVP Brett Favre in his prime. He makes plays that aren’t drawn up. He makes throws others can’t make, contorting his body this way and that while making pinpoint throws.

Meanwhile, Brees just keep doing what he has done for 18 seasons, which is throw the ball at least as accurately as anyone who has ever played the game. He does it much more conventionally, more mechanically correct than Mahomes, and he does it despite his advancing age and his height disadvantage.

Statistically, you could just hand the award to Mahomes. Well, actually the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger, whom Brees out-dueled Sunday, has thrown the ball for even more yardage than Mahomes, who ranks second in the league in passing yards. Compared specifically to Brees, Mahomes has completed more passes for more yards and more touchdowns.

The actual numbers going into the last week of the regular season: Mahomes had thrown for 321 yards per game, compared to 266 for Brees. More importantly, Mahomes had thrown for a league-high 48 touchdowns, compared to 32 for Brees.

Case closed, right?

As Lee Corso would say, not so fast…

Stats aren’t everything. After all, Brees has led the NFL in passing yards six times before. He has led the league in touchdown passes four times. And yet, he has never won the MVP award.

And Brees does have better numbers than Mahomes in other crucial categories. Number one, he has the higher passer rating (a league-best 115.7) to Mahomes (114.0). Brees completes 74.4 percent of his passes to Mahomes’ 66.4. That 74.4 percent is the best in NFL history, which should count for something. And there’s this: Mahomes has thrown 11 interceptions, compared to Brees’ five.

All things considered, the stats are about a wash. Both have had truly splendid seasons.

So let’s look at other factors, including the most important of all. The Saints were 13-2 and will have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Chiefs were 11-4 heading into the last week.

Brees showed what he is all about in the home-field-through-the-playoffs-clinching victory over the Steelers. With the Saints missing three offensive line starters for much of the game, he still found a way to get the ball into the end zone for the winning touchdown in the final seconds. He did it against a really good Steelers team that needed desperately to win.

The award is called Most Valuable Player. Take Brees away from the Saints and what are they? An 8-8 team? 7-9? Of course, you can say the same about the Mahomes and the Chiefs.

Again, great arguments can be made for either.

I would vote for Brees. He’s has played at a stratospheric level for 18 seasons. He has had MVP numbers many times and has never won it.

This is his time.

Mahomes, I suspect, will be in this argument for years and years to come.


Contact syndicated columnist Rick Cleveland at rcleveland@mississippitoday.org.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
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