The MVP race is a 2-man cage match

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The MVP discussion has been whittled down to an A and B conversation between Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts. Joe Burrow is eavesdropping, but in the final quarter of the season, he is on the outside looking in. As things currently stand, Mahomes occupies the B slot in this race as Hurts is edging out the 2018 MVP in the 2022 Most Valuable Player duel.

To Hurts’ advantage, his consistency has been incredible. He’s a metronome for the Eagles. Hurts currently directs the No. 1 scoring offense and in Week 14 jumped all over the Giants en route to a 48-22 victory. Mahomes represents the second-best offense, but threw three picks Sunday, albeit against a smothering Broncos defense.

To his credit, Mahomes leads the NFL in touchdown passes by a larger margin than the distance between second-place Joe Burrow and the ninth-ranked passing touchdown generator. However, when you factor in Mahomes’ and Hurts’ rushing touchdowns, the difference in total touchdowns shrinks to 35 for Mahomes and 32 for Hurts.

Mahomes also possesses the highest QBR in the NFL, ahead of Hurts, who is fourth, but the latter has rushed for more yardage this season (686) than Mahomes has in 2021 and 2022 combined. Hurts’ scrambles aren’t as electric as Lamar Jackson’s during his unanimous MVP season of 2019. He’s more methodical, but the effect works just the same.

Hurts’ three interceptions for a team that’s lost just once all season gives him an edge over Mahomes’ 11 (fourth-most in the NFL). That lowlight reel includes a pass into coverage during a late drive against the Colts in Week 3, that was tipped, intercepted and ultimately prevented the Chiefs from attempting a game-tying field goal.

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Against Tennessee, Hurts scalpelled a 40-yard touchdown strike into the crevice between A.J. Brown and the cornerback velcroed to his chest. His throws to Brown, whom the Titans traded this offseason, got Titans general manager Jon Robinson fired in the process.

Sunday was a reunion of sorts between Hurts and Brian Daboll, Alabama’s offensive coordinator in 2018 when Hurts was the starter before being benched for Tua Tagovailoa in the second half of that season’s national championship game against Georgia. Ironically, it was Hurts’ issues opening defenses up with his deep passing that left his starting role vulnerable to Tagovailoa.

Over the weekend, Hurts and Mahomes delivered the two best deep throws of the weekend. Mahomes shoveled a no-look outlet pass to Jerick McKinnon who scampered 56 yards for a score, while Hurts split the Giants defense with a hole-in-one deep ball to Devonta Smith on a 4th-and 7 that dropped between two defensive backs. After Week 14, Hurts has passed for more touchdowns on throws of 25 air yards or more than any NFL signal caller except Geno Smith. It feels like Hurts somehow stole Russell Wilson’s deep passing accuracy and refuses to give it back.

The prophets who put money down on Hurts’ 40-to-1 or +4000 odds to claim his first MVP before the season should take a bow. But they’re not the only ones about to get paid. Hurts’ rookie contract will finally expire in 2023 and this performance has likely moved him up a few NFL tax brackets. He is evolving at a quantum pace and hurtling toward his first MVP in the meantime. Hurts has hurdled every speed bump obstructing his path to the top and there aren’t many left that can slow him.

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