2018 NFL MVP Watch: Brees emerges as unanimous front-runner ahead of Mahomes, Luck enters the fray

It's unanimous. Through the first 11 weeks of the 2018 season, Drew Brees has emerged as CBS Sports' choice for MVP. There's still plenty of time remaining for Patrick Mahomes to overtake Brees, but with six weeks remaining, he's chasing Brees.

A week ago, when we published our first unofficial MVP leaderboard, Brees slotted in behind Mahomes. Only one point separated the two quarterbacks. But the order flipped after the events of Week 11. Furthermore, unlike last week when both Brees and Mahomes garnered first-place votes, only Brees received first-place votes in this week's poll. All five of our NFL writers awarded their first-place votes to Brees. All five of our NFL writers awarded their second-place votes to Mahomes. The pendulum has swung in Brees' favor.

With good reason. Brees submitted yet another incredible performance. During a 48-7 bludgeoning of the Eagles, Brees threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns. On the season, Brees has now completed 76.9 percent of his passes for 2,964 yards, 25 touchdowns, one interception, and a 126.9 passer rating. The Saints haven't lost since Week 1. Mahomes, meanwhile, played brilliantly during a 54-51 loss to the Rams, throwing for 478 yards and six touchdowns. But he also turned the ball over five times, which undoubtedly contributed to his fall from first to second. 

Brees, a 39-year-old future first-ballot Hall of Famer, has never won MVP. Holding off Mahomes won't be easy, but he appears to be the favorite as he heads into a Week 12 matchup with the Falcons on Thanksgiving (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC, stream on fuboTV, try for free).

What's also notable about our ballot is that Andrew Luck of the upstart Colts is suddenly getting votes. He appeared on two of five ballots. Given how well Brees and Mahomes are playing, there's no chance in hell Luck will actually win MVP, but it still makes for a nice story after everything Luck went through last season. Finally, two defensive players in Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald are hanging around. Like Luck, they don't have a chance of actually winning MVP, but they've been so dominant that they're at least in the conversation, which is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Below, you'll find our cumulative standings. Further below, you'll find each writer's individual ballot with a brief explanation. That way, you'll know who to yell at.

2018 MVP vote heading into Week 12

1. Drew Brees -- 25 points
2. Patrick Mahomes -- 20 points
3. Jared Goff -- 7 points
4. Khalil Mack -- 6 points
5. Todd Gurley -- 5 points
T-6. Philip Rivers -- 4 points
T-6. Aaron Donald -- 4 points
8. Andrew Luck -- 3 points
9. Ben Roethlisberger -- 1 point

John Breech's ballot

  1. Drew Brees
  2. Patrick Mahomes
  3. Todd Gurley
  4. Khalil Mack
  5. Ben Roethlisberger

The Rams and Chiefs played one of the most explosive offensive games in NFL history, but that didn't help anyone on my ballot as the two players who played in that game both fell this week. I dropped Mahomes because there's no way I can keep him in front of Brees after a disastrous five turnover performance. Although Mahomes threw six touchdowns, he also lost two fumbles and threw three interceptions. Even uglier is that the Rams defense scored two touchdowns off those turnovers (Maybe I should put Samson Ebukam on this list, because he's the one who scored both defensive touchdowns for the Rams). As for Gurley, he took a slight drop this week and that's mostly because the Rams proved they could win a shootout without much production from him.

On Brees' end, he's somehow playing his best football in HIS 18TH SEASON. The man has thrown 25 touchdown passes and just one interception this season. Brees would probably love to win this award and that's mainly because he's finished as runner-up a total of three times in his career (he's never won it). Khalil Mack is new to my list this week and that's because I decided I could no longer keep him off after another dominating performance. As for Big Ben, his disastrous performance against the Jaguars was canceled out by the fact that he led a miraculous comeback. 

Will Brinson's ballot

  1. Drew Brees
  2. Patrick Mahomes
  3. Philip Rivers
  4. Andrew Luck
  5. Jared Goff

The Saints are clearly the best team in football right now and for that, Brees is gonna get the nod from me. Mahomes is still a monster and has been great all year long and I wouldn't begrudge giving him the award, but Brees and the Saints are bludgeoning people right now. Rivers, Luck and Goff are all a pretty good ways back from the top two guys on this list, but certainly could make a run in the final two months of the season. Luck in particular could really warrant consideration here if he can help the Colts win the division.

Jared Dubin's ballot

  1. Drew Brees
  2. Patrick Mahomes
  3. Jared Goff
  4. Khalil Mack
  5. Philip Rivers

It's the top three guys and then everybody else. There is so little room separating the top three candidates right now, but Brees seems most integral to his team's success. Their numbers are completely bonkers and it's not going to stop. Sit back, watch the show, and make your real decision regarding who deserves this award, at the end of the year. 

Sean Wagner-McGough's ballot

  1. Drew Brees
  2. Patrick Mahomes
  3. Jared Goff
  4. Khalil Mack
  5. Aaron Donald

It really says something about the awesomeness of this year's race that Mahomes threw for six touchdowns and 478 yards against the Rams in prime time and then I bumped him down a spot on my ballot. Last week, I had Mahomes atop my leaderboard with Brees in second, but I'm flipping the top two spots -- for now. Brees pulled ahead for a couple reasons. One, he played another stellar game with four touchdowns and zero interceptions in a blowout win over the Eagles. Two, while Mahomes played brilliantly in the loss to the Rams, he also turned the ball over five times. Brees has turned the ball over once all season long. Three, the Saints now own a better record than the Chiefs. That being said, the race is only just beginning. I have the two quarterbacks neck-and-neck. I won't be surprised if the order flips again before the end of the season.

Goff jumps from the fourth to third spot after a great game against the Chiefs. There's still a substantial gap between Goff and Mahomes, though. For me, this is a two-man race. As for Mack and Donald, we saw in prime time this week what both of those players are capable of. Mack singlehandedly wrecked the Vikings offense while Donald might've been the best player on the field in a game that involved the third-most points in NFL history and over 1,000 yards of offense. I have Mack above Donald because I believe Mack is more valuable to the Bears than Donald is to the Rams -- not because I think Mack is better than Donald. The Rams have three MVP candidates in Goff, Donald, and Gurley. If they lost Donald, they'd still be a great team. If the Bears lost Mack, they'd go from the top team in the NFC North to just another decent team.  

Ryan Wilson's ballot 

  1. Drew Brees
  2. Patrick Mahomes
  3. Aaron Donald
  4. Todd Gurley
  5. Andrew Luck

Drew Brees has never won an MVP. He's been in the league so long players like Rich Gannon and Shaun Alexander have had their names grace the award but the Saints quarterback has never had the honor. But at 39, this could be -- should be -- the year. Brees is setting career bests in completion percentage (76.9), touchdown-to-interception ratio (25/1), yards per attempt (10.2) and passer rating (126.9). If not now, when? 

Patrick Mahomes is coming off a six-touchdown, 478-yard game in which the Chiefs lost. Mahomes took the blame -- he had three interceptions and two lost fumbles -- but just any other quarterback and the Chiefs get their doors blown out in the Coliseum. And the 23-year-old is just scratching the surface. Let that sink in. 

Aaron Donald has a case for the best player in football who doesn't play quarterback. He routinely takes over games and there's little opposing offenses can do about it. He has 14.5 sacks, including two strip-sacks against Mahomes that led to 14 points. Put another way, Donald was responsible for twice as many points as teammate Todd Gurley, who remains the best running back in football but had little to do while watching Jared Goff throw for more than 400 yards and four scores. Still, Gurley remains an integral part of the Rams' offense and he's now surpassed 1,000 rushing yards on the season. 

No, this isn't 2014, when the Colts were among the AFC's best and Luck was on pace for 40 touchdowns and mentioned as an MVP candidate. But the 2018 version of Luck looks pretty good. He hasn't been sacked in five games, the Colts have won four straight, and in that span Luck has thrown 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions. His 67.3 completion percentage and 101.8 passer rating are also career bests. And with Indy's remaining regular-season schedule, Luck is primed to lead this team back to the playoffs for the first time since that '14 campaign.

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

Our Latest Stories