Patrick Mahomes is the odds-on favorite to win the MVP, but there is one player that is gaining ground quickly. It’s not Drew Brees. It’s not Andrew Luck. It’s not Aaron Donald or Khalil Mack. Philip Rivers is that player!
Why is Philip Rivers all of a sudden on MVP ballots? Beating the division-leading Chiefs on the road in primetime to keep the Los Angeles Chargers in the hunt not just for the AFC West, but home field advantage throughout the playoffs is a good start. Also, this throw helps…a lot.
Rivers is capitalizing off of the “what have you done for me lately,” theory. Recency bias tends to happen with awards and although Mahomes has had a spectacular season, Rivers recently shined when the lights were brightest. In the biggest game of the season on the biggest stage, it was Rivers, not Mahomes, who delivered late. Down 14 points in the fourth quarter, Rivers led the Chargers on two straight drives that ended in touchdowns with the exclamation point coming in the form of a 2-point conversation with 4 seconds left to give the Chargers their first lead of the entire night, which ended up being the difference over the Chiefs. Also, keep in mind that Rivers did not have his top wide receiver, running back, or tight end in the lineup in the 4th quarter.
Although Drew Brees is second in the odds for MVP, the Saints QB has struggled in his past three games with only 531 yards, 2 TDs, and 3 INTs. If Brees struggles again this week at home against the Steelers, his decline in the MVP race will continue.
However, while we’re on the topic of the last three games, let’s take a look at the numbers from both Mahomes and Rivers.
Mahomes: 915 yards, 8 TDs, 1 INTs
Rivers: 832, 5 TDs, 2 INTs
Mahomes’s numbers are better on paper, but they don’t really tell the story during that three game stretch. Mahomes struggled against Baltimore the entire game and had it not been for a miraculous throw to Tyreek Hill; the Chiefs would have been losers of two straight games, bouncing them from the top of the AFC to the 5th seed. The yards and touchdowns favor Mahomes tremendously, but if you take a closer look at the completion numbers and records of each team, the race is not as wide as portrayed by the oddsmakers.
Also, if you can believe this, Rivers has more games with multiple touchdowns (13), which is first in the NFL, than Mahomes (12). Plus, voters are more likely to remember Rivers’ late-game comeback win over Mahomes than Mahomes’ 4 TD performance Week 1 over the Chargers.
There is no doubt in my mind that if the season ended today, Patrick Mahomes would win the MVP (and rightfully so). However, there are still two weeks left with huge playoff implications on the line. The Chiefs and Chargers are currently tied for first in the AFC West with 11-3 records. The Chiefs currently hold the tiebreaker so if both teams win out, the Chiefs would not only win the AFC West, but they would earn the #1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. One misstep by Mahomes and it could result in the 5 seed.
Rivers is going to have to play out of his mind these next two weeks to gain momentum for his MVP campaign. First of all, Mahomes will have to struggle mightily, which hasn’t happened all season long. Mahomes and the Chiefs travel to Seattle on Sunday night, which is no easy task, and finish off the season at home against the Raiders. If Mahomes throws multiple interceptions in both games with little to no touchdowns, Rivers has a chance to steal votes away. With a game at home against Baltimore and a game on the road against Denver, if Rivers can light up the scoreboard and throw for 6+ touchdowns that result in two wins, Rivers will have a legitimate case to win the MVP.
Philip Rivers is not a traditional long shot since he is third in the MVP odds. That being said, Mahomes has been at the top of the ballot all season long while Rivers has not even been in the top 5 for most of the season. Can Rivers actually unseat Mahomes from the MVP race despite? It seems impossible, but with the ball in his hands, Rivers won’t go down without a fight.