Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes is CBS Sports' unanimous choice for NFL MVP over Drew Brees

After 12 wins, the top seed in the AFC, the AFC West crown, 5,097 passing yards, and 50 touchdown passes, Patrick Mahomes has emerged as CBS Sports' unanimous choice for league MVP over Drew Brees. In the final edition of our MVP watch for the 2018 season, all five NFL writers here at CBS Sports voted for Mahomes in first place and Brees in second place, which makes Mahomes our undisputed MVP of the 2018 NFL season.

The race was never that close in our eyes. Since we started publishing our MVP ballots on a weekly basis back before Week 11, Mahomes finished atop the leaderboard five times out of seven. The last time Brees led Mahomes on our leaderboard came back in November. For the entire month of December, Mahomes held off Brees. He just never gave Brees a chance to get back into the race.

It's cruel that a 74.4 completion percentage, 3,992 yards, 32 touchdowns, five interceptions, and a 115.7 passer rating on a 13-win team wasn't enough for Brees to capture his first MVP award -- the only accolade his Hall-of-Fame resume lacks -- but that's how historically awesome Mahomes was this season. Like Brees, Mahomes led his team to the top seed in the conference. Unlike Brees, Mahomes got his team to the top of the table with one of the worst defenses in football. The Saints finished the season ranked 14th in points allowed and 11th in defensive DVOA. The Chiefs finished the season ranked 24th in points allowed and 26th in defensive DVOA. That makes Mahomes more valuable to his team.

Furthermore, ignoring the factors outside of their control, it's Mahomes who posted the better statistical season. 


Comp.% Yards TDs INTs Rating

Mahomes

66.0

5,097

50

12

113.8

Brees

74.4

3,992

32

5

115.7

Only two quarterbacks in NFL history have thrown for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in a single season: Peyton Manning in 2013 and Mahomes in 2018. While Manning threw for more yards and touchdowns in 2013, Mahomes averaged more yards per attempt and threw a touchdown on a higher percentage of his passes.

By more advanced metrics, Mahomes bested Brees. DYAR has Mahomes in first and Brees in second. DVOA ranked Mahomes first and Brees second. The same can be said about QBR. By nearly every metric, Mahomes was better than Brees. 

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In recent weeks, an unfair narrative designed to boost Brees over Mahomes sprouted up. It said that while Mahomes has the better overall numbers than Brees, he didn't play as well in big games. Except that, in the Chiefs' four losses this season, which came against the Patriots, Rams, Chargers, and Seahawks -- all playoff teams, by the way -- Mahomes averaged 336.5 passing yards per game, and threw 15 touchdowns and five interceptions overall. The Chiefs averaged an insane 37.5 points per loss. If you extrapolate his statistics in those four losses to an entire season's worth of games, Mahomes would've thrown for 5,384 yards and 60 touchdowns. Mahomes did not struggle in losses or big games this season.

And he delivered plenty of MVP moments along the way -- from his no-look pass to his fourth-down bomb that stunned the Ravens to his six-touchdown eruption to beat the Steelers back in Week 2. From Week 1 to Week 17, in a season filled with incredible quarterback play, Mahomes was the best player in football on one of the best teams in football that won 12 games without a competent defense. Brees submitted a season that would be MVP-worthy most of the time -- he was the best player on the best team in football -- but Mahomes' season was anything but ordinary. It might be a long time before we see something like this again.

Mahomes is our unanimous MVP.

The final 2018 NFL MVP ballot 

1. Patrick Mahomes -- 25 points
2. Drew Brees -- 20 points
3. Philip Rivers -- 9 points
4. Andrew Luck -- 8 points
5. Aaron Donald -- 6 points
6. Khalil Mack -- 4 points
7. Russell Wilson -- 3 points

Below, you'll find all five individual ballots followed by brief explanations. 

John Breech's ballot

  1. Patrick Mahomes
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Andrew Luck
  4. Russell Wilson 
  5. Aaron Donald

Although Drew Brees will likely get a few votes when the official MVP ballots are released in February, this picks feels like a no-brainer to me. In his first full season as an NFL starter, Mahomes put together one of the best years in NFL history. Not only did he become just the third player ever to throw for at least 50 touchdown passes, but he he also joined Peyton Manning as the only other player in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards AND 50 or more touchdowns. The biggest difference between Mahomes and Brees is that Mahomes literally had to carry his team every week. The Chiefs defense finished 2018 ranked as the second-worst defense in the NFL, which means that Mahomes and the offense had to blow up the scoreboard every week to win, and sometimes, that wasn't even enough. In the Chiefs' four losses, the offense scored 40, 51, 28 and 31. As for Brees, he had a rough stretch from Week 13-15, but was bailed out by his defense, something that almost never happened for Mahomes. 

I almost gave Brees a pity first-place vote here and that's because if he finishes as runner-up, it will mark the fourth time in his career that he's finished in second place, which has to be painful for a future Hall of Fame quarterback who's never actually won the MVP.   

Will Brinson's ballot

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

Pretty anti-climatic here. Mahomes threw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns and the Chiefs secured the No. 1 seed while Brees sat out Week 17. Those were the only two viable candidates in the end, but it's worth noting I think Rivers, Luck or Wilson could have won the award in any other regular year.

Jared Dubin's ballot

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

Like I said last week, I will file the same ballot this week unless something crazy happens. Something crazy did not happen. Patrick Mahomes is the MVP. 

Sean Wagner-McGough's ballot

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

Mahomes was the best quarterback in football on a team that went 12-4. Brees wasn't that far behind Mahomes, but Brees had the luxury of playing with a better defense. That makes Mahomes more valuable to me, which is a shame because in any other year, Brees' season probably would've been good enough for him to win his first MVP. Don't blame Brees for coming up short. Mahomes earned it with a historic season.

Ryan Wilson's ballot

  1. Patrick Mahomes
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Aaron Donald
  4. Andrew Luck
  5. Khalil Mack

Patrick Mahomes is the best player in the NFL and it's not close. OK, it's close, but Drew Brees is going to have to wait another year for a chance at the honor. If Brees is No. 2 on our list, Aaron Donald is 2a. He finished the regular season with 20.5 sacks and in any other year perhaps he gets more first-place votes. Andrew Luck is the Comeback Player of the Year without question, but he deserves to be recognized as an MVP candidate too. What he and the Colts have accomplished this season has been amazing. Khalil Mack rounds out the top 5, and he could be the key to a deep Bears playoff run.

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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