2018 NFL MVP Watch: Patrick Mahomes gets his MVP moment, retains big lead over Drew Brees

Patrick Mahomes finally got his MVP moment.

It's asinine that Mahomes had thrown for nearly 4,000 yards and 41 touchdowns entering the Chiefs' game against the Ravens on Sunday and still needed an "MVP moment," but it's just the reality of an MVP race that is as competitive as we've seen in recent years. Drew Brees is completing 75.7 percent of his passes and sporting a 31-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Philip Rivers has thrown 29 touchdowns and six interceptions. Aaron Donald, an interior lineman, is leading the league in sacks with 16.5. Khalil Mack turned the Bears into a Super Bowl contender. A normal great season won't be enough to win MVP this year. More than a few deserving candidates will fall short.

They'll fall short because, barring a collapse, Mahomes is the MVP of the 2018 season. His MVP moment on Sunday only cemented his status as the frontrunner who's earned substantial separation from the rest of the pack.

After Mahomes started the year by throwing for 896 yards, 13 touchdowns, and zero interceptions in his first three games, we adjusted our expectations for him. His 300-yard, four-touchdown outbursts became his new normal. They lost their luster. As he started to turn the ball over more frequently, his lead in the race slipped. Wth Brees hot on his heels, Mahomes needed a signature moment to cement his status atop the leaderboard. He had a chance to do exactly that a few weeks ago against the Rams in what became the best game of the season, but his five turnovers marred an otherwise spectacular performance in a narrow defeat. 

On Sunday, Mahomes provided his MVP moment. Fittingly enough, the moment didn't come in one of his better statistical games. Against a Ravens defense that is now the second-best in the league by DVOA, Mahomes completed 35 of 53 passes for 377 yards, two touchdowns, one pick, and a 91.5 passer rating -- his third-lowest passer rating of the season. But what he did was (in addition to his sick no-look pass earlier in the game) lead the Chiefs back from the dead against one of the best defenses in football with an impossible throw on fourth down before sending the game to overtime on yet another fourth down play. 

Here it is, the moment Mahomes won MVP:

And so, it should come as no surprise to hear that for a second straight week, all five NFL writers here at CBS Sports ranked Mahomes first on their MVP ballots. 

Once again, Brees garnered all five second-place votes while Rivers checked in behind Brees. Also noteworthy is that two players dropped off the leaderboard entirely. Todd Gurley and Jared Goff, after getting shut down by the Bears on Sunday night, received zero votes for the first time this season. On the other hand, Andrew Luck reappeared on the leaderboard after a 399-yard outing in a win over the Texans. 

Overall, the board shrunk from eight candidates to seven.

Catch MVP candidates Patrick Mahomes and Philip Rivers Thursday on fuboTV, try it for free, and stream all of Saturday and Sunday's games on fuboTV and all the CBS games on CBS All Access.  

2018 MVP vote heading into Week 15

1. Patrick Mahomes -- 25 points
2. Drew Brees -- 20 points
3. Philip Rivers -- 11 points
4. Aaron Donald -- 7 points
5. Khalil Mack -- 6 points
6. Andrew Luck -- 5 points
7. Russell Wilson -- 1 point

Below, you'll find the individual ballots and their corresponding explanations. That way, you'll know who to yell at on Twitter.

John Breech's ballot

  1. Patrick Mahomes
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Philip Rivers
  4. Andrew Luck
  5. Aaron Donald

Unless Mahomes has a four-interception meltdown at some point over the next three weeks, I think he might have all but wrapped up the MVP with his performance on Sunday. Going up against the NFL's top defense, Mahomes threw for 377 yards and two touchdowns. Not only that, but he was throwing no-look passes and he converted a fourth-and-9 in the fourth quarter with an absurd 48-yard bomb that he threw across his body as he was being chased out of bounds. It was the kind of a play that kind of made me want to give him the MVP on the spot. 

On Brees' end, he seemed to struggle for the second straight week. For one, he only threw for 201 yards against a bad Buccaneers defense on Sunday, and he also had two UGLY turnovers. Of all the people on my ballot, I'd say Rivers is the biggest dark horse. If he can lead the Chargers past the Chiefs on Thursday and to an AFC West title (the Chiefs would have to lose a second game for that to happen), then I could see Rivers stealing this away. Luck and Donald probably have no shot at this award, but I'm required to give five names on my ballot, so I'm giving five names. 

Will Brinson's ballot

  1. Patrick Mahomes
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Philip Rivers 
  4. Andrew Luck
  5. Russell Wilson

Lot of bad QB performances this week. Mahomes may have just sealed up the award with his no-look pass and then the fourth down throw to Tyreek to save the game. I've heard of podcast listeners who found him at +150 to win MVP — if you see that value out there you better jump on it. I think it will come down to Thursday night; Brees could pass him if Rivers and the Chargers upend the Chiefs run at the division but I don't see that happening. 

Jared Dubin's ballot

  1. Patrick Mahomes
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Aaron Donald
  4. Khalil Mack
  5. Philip Rivers

This award is officially Mahomes' to lose over the final three weeks of the season. So many of the other candidates have fallen off in recent weeks, but he just keeps on rolling. It's almost not worth discussing the qualifications of other candidates at this point, because everybody's chance at winning depends not only on their performance, but also on Mahomes stumbling, which seems incredibly unlikely to happen. 

Sean Wagner-McGough's ballot

  1. Patrick Mahomes
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Philip Rivers
  4. Khalil Mack
  5. Andrew Luck

I don't really anticipate my top four spots changing anytime soon, but Rivers can pass Brees if he outplays Mahomes on Thursday night and if Brees stumbles. But most of the drama at the top of my ballot is done with unless Mahomes really crashes in the final three weeks. I took Aaron Donald off my list entirely after the Bears made him invisible. And I'm swapping in Andrew Luck, who has the Colts on the verge of a playoff spot. Really, though, there wasn't a good fifth option with Donald, Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, and Russell Wilson all submitting disappointing performances in Week 14. For now, I'll give Luck a vote. But even he doesn't seem entirely deserving considering the Colts got blanked by the Jaguars two weeks ago. 

Ryan Wilson's ballot

  1. Patrick Mahomes
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Aaron Donald
  4. Khalil Mack
  5. Philip Rivers

Patrick Mahomes faced his toughest test of the season against the Ravens' top-flight defense, and while it wasn't pretty at times, it was impressive to watch the first-year starter win games in the most improbable ways imaginable. Drew Brees, meanwhile, had another ho-hum outing, this time against a not-even-replacement-level Buccaneers team. A lot will have to happen over the final three weeks for Brees to unseat Mahomes. Aaron Donald had a quiet evening against the Bears in a game where he -- and everyone else on the Rams -- was overshadowed by Chicago's defense. Khalil Mack had a sack and a forced fumble in the game, and he now has 10 sacks on the season. Philip Rivers helped the Chargers to their ninth win in 10 games but he did nothing to differentiate himself in the MVP race.

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

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