2018 NFL MVP Watch: Race heats up as Patrick Mahomes replaces Drew Brees as unanimous choice

How fast status can change in the NFL. All it took was one poor performance in a primetime loss for the MVP race to flip. Just when it looked like MVP was Drew Brees' award to lose, he lost it. 

After finishing as CBS Sports' unanimous choice for MVP on our last two ballots, the Saints quarterback has been overtaken by Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has all of a sudden replaced Brees as our unanimous selection. Entering Week 14, all five of our NFL writers here at CBS Sports placed Mahomes atop their MVP ballots and slotted in Brees at second, which is the exact opposite of how the past two weeks went when Brees garnered all first-place votes and Mahomes received every second-place vote. This remains a two-man race, but just when it seemed like the order wouldn't flip, Week 13 happened. 

To get to this point, Brees submitted a dreadful outing against the Cowboys on Thursday night. In a 13-10 loss, he completed 18 of 28 passes (64.3 percent) for 127 yards (4.5 yards per attempt), one touchdown, one pick, and a 71.6 passer rating. It was the worst performance of his season. And it happened on national television against America's alleged team. A few days later, Mahomes took apart an awful Raiders defense for 295 yards, four touchdowns, no picks, and a 120.0 passer rating. And that's how Mahomes jumped ahead of Brees.

Below, you'll see how the two quarterbacks stack up (in terms of passing stats) with a quarter of the season still to come. It's worth noting that Mahomes holds the edge in rushing yards by a wide margin (238 compared to 26) even though Brees has actually scored one more rushing touchdown than Mahomes (three compared to two). But here are their passing stats:

Comp. %

Yards

TDs

INTs

Rating

QBR

Mahomes

66.9

3,923

41

10

118.1

85.5

Brees

75.5

3,262

30

3

123.2

85.4

As that stats indicate, this is still a very close race that both players can seize. The final four games will determine the race. As Brees found out last week, all it takes is one bad game for the order to flip.

If you're looking for a potential spoiler, that player is either Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers or Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Rivers helped the Chargers earn a massive come-from-behind win over the Steelers on Sunday night, throwing for 299 yards and two touchdowns in the process. If the Chargers overtake the Chiefs in the AFC West, Rivers could steal some first-place votes. Donald, meanwhile, is now up to 16.5 sacks after he brought down Matthew Stafford twice and forced his fourth fumble of the season on Sunday. If the Rams catch the Saints in the NFC for the top seed, maybe the Rams' best player can catch the leaders in the MVP race.

Beyond that, the rest of the leaderboard is filled with long shots. 

(You can watch Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes and the rest of the MVP candidates by streaming Thursday's and all of Sunday's games on fuboTV, try it for free, and stream the CBS games on CBS All Access.)

2018 MVP vote heading into Week 14

1. Patrick Mahomes -- 25 points
2. Drew Brees -- 20 points 
3. Philip Rivers -- 12 points
4. Aaron Donald -- 10 points
5. Todd Gurley -- 3 points
T-6. Khalil Mack -- 2 points
T-6. Russell Wilson -- 2 points
8. Jared Goff -- 1 points

Now let's get to the individual ballots so you know who to yell at on Twitter.

John Breech's ballot

  1. Patrick Mahomes
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Aaron Donald
  4. Todd Gurley
  5. Philip Rivers

For the third week in a row, I've decided to flip flop my top two picks. At this point, the top spot is almost based upon how I feel when I get out of bed the morning that I turn in my ballot. Brees dropped from the top spot because he played an ugly game against the Cowboys while Mahomes came out and threw four touchdown passes in Week 13, despite the fact that the Chiefs had to alter their game plan because they lost a star offensive player (Kareem Hunt) less than 48 hours before playing the Raiders. Mahomes even showed off his wheels in Week 13 by leading Kansas City in rushing yards. 

The newcomer to my ballot this week is Aaron Donald, who single-handedly destroyed the Lions on Sunday with two sacks, five tackles for loss, four QB hits and a forced fumble. Donald now leads the NFL with 16.5 sacks (no one else has more than 13) and if that holds up, he would become the first interior defensive linemen since 2000 to lead the NFL in that category. As for Gurley, I hate having two players from the same team on my ballot, but it's impossible to remove him this week after watching him steamroll the Lions for 132 yards and two touchdowns. My final spot goes to Rivers, who could move up the ballot quickly if the Chargers win out, especially because that would include a win over Mahomes and the Chiefs. 

Will Brinson's ballot

  1. Patrick Mahomes
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Philip Rivers
  4. Russell Wilson
  5. Jared Goff

Leaving Andrew Luck off the ballot this week but he's right there in the same group of guys on the second tier. It's still Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees up top -- I think ultimately it will come down to who gets the No. 1 seed in their respective conference. Brees is still a fine choice but I would go Mahomes after the outcome this week and the way things shook out -- it wouldn't surprise me at all if it flips flops every week the rest of the season. Russell Wilson really deserves more love for this award as the Seahawks keep storming toward a wild-card berth. Philip Rivers is playing his tail off. The Rams are too good not to have someone on this list and I would certainly take Goff over Gurley.

Jared Dubin's ballot

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

Mahomes' continued domination in a win over the Raiders, juxtaposed with Brees' struggles against the Cowboys, makes it easy to flip the top two players on my ballot for now. Rivers' performance in the second half against the Steelers bumps him up a couple spots, while I've now moved Donald into the token Rams spot because he is just that good and Jared Goff and Todd Gurley are sort of sharing credit for the team's offensive success. 

Sean Wagner-McGough's ballot

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

Mahomes and Brees are separated by the smallest of margins, but I'm giving Mahomes the edge because he played better than Brees in Week 13. I'm expecting this race to come down to Week 17. Rivers, outside of a stinker against the Broncos a couple weeks back, continues to be magnificent. To me, he's the only fringe player who could steal the award if the Chargers can overtake the Chiefs in the AFC West. Finally, I flipped Donald and Mack even though I think Mack is more important to the Bears than Donald is to the Rams because Donald helped the Rams overcome a poor game by Jared Goff when he forced a key fumble against the Lions.

Ryan Wilson's ballot

  1. Patrick Mahomes
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Aaron Donald
  4. Philip Rivers
  5. Todd Gurley

Patrick Mahomes got off to a slow start in Oakland -- and he still threw four touchdowns and didn't have a turnover. Meanwhile, Drew Brees, it turns out, is human. He and the rest of the Saints' high-powered offense had no answers in Dallas last Thursday night. This is no doubt an aberration but could it be enough to keep him from winning his first-ever MVP? In related news: Aaron Donald could win the MVP before Brees; on Sunday in Detroit he had three tackles for loss and two sacks, including a strip sack. Philip Rivers continues to putter along, dicing up defenses with a mix of quick passes and deep strikes, all while sporting his Unflappable Smirk Face. Todd Gurley rejoins the list after Andrew Luck and the Colts were blanked by the Jaguars in a must-win game.

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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