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Jesse Pantuosco

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Marvelous Mahomes

Saturday, December 29, 2018


I think my Christmas gifts went over well for the most part, though I did fall short in one aspect. I bought a t-shirt for my brother, a diehard Celtics fan like myself, that I thought would be a good supplement to the larger gift I gave him—tickets to Celtics vs. Warriors at TD Garden. Lifehack: the best gifts for others are ones that also benefit you (who do you think he’s going with?). It wasn’t anything elaborate—all it said was “Al Horford is good” in green lettering—but I thought my brother would appreciate the humor in it (I know he’s a fan of my Cespedes Family Barbecue-inspired “Mike Zunino is good” shirt).

 

Unfortunately, I never got to see his reaction to it (he very much enjoyed the tickets), mostly because the shirt never arrived. I did receive a shirt in the mail a few days before Christmas—it just wasn’t the one I ordered. Turns out, some chucklehead at the warehouse put down the wrong product number, hence why “Al Horford is good” never made it under the tree.

 

But here’s the thing. If they made that shirt for Patrick Mahomes, it wouldn’t work. “Patrick Mahomes is good?” That’s not ironic—that’s just incorrect. The word good simply won’t do. Not to take anything away from Al Horford, a multiple-time All-Star and one of the better all-around players in his sport, but he’s no Mahomes. I don’t care what kind of wordsmith you are—there’s no word in the English language that can properly describe the brilliance that is Patrick Mahomes. You just have to see it for yourself.

 

I wonder how the conversation went when scientists were building Mahomes in a top-secret lab all those years ago. “So, here’s what I’m thinking—what if we gave him Aaron Rodgers’ rocket arm, Cam Newton’s mobility, Tom Brady’s height, Brett Favre’s grit, Drew Brees’ godlike accuracy and for kicks, we made him really good at the Derek Jeter jump throw?” “That sounds doable. We’ll get right to work.” According to Wikipedia, Mahomes was born on September 17, 1995 in Tyler, Texas (the same birthplace of former Browns bust Johnny Manziel), but come on—who actually believes that? I don’t know what planet he’s from, but one thing’s for sure—Mahomes is not of this world.

 

How could he be? I could barely make spaghetti when I was 23. But here Mahomes is treating the NFL, a league populated by stupid-fast, muscle-bound freakazoids hitting each other at warp speed, like his own game of backyard football. It’s lunacy! But you know what the really insane thing is? I’m not going to name names (you know who you are), but some people genuinely believe that Mahomes shouldn’t be the NFL MVP.

 

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Imagine being so blatantly wrong about anything ever. Fellas, a year ago at this time, Mahomes was folding Alex Smith’s laundry. Now he has 4,816 passing yards and a breathtaking 114 quarterback rating to his name, not to mention that his team is on the cusp of the AFC’s top seed, a distinction Kansas City hasn’t earned since 1997. Back then Mahomes was wearing Pampers instead of his signature black headband and probably had aspirations of a career in pro baseball, much like his father Pat Mahomes, a long-time relief pitcher in Major League Baseball.

 

If you’re still unconvinced of Mahomes’ greatness, consider the following—the Chiefs’ ketchup-loving franchise quarterback needs just two touchdown passes against Oakland (a team he obliterated for four touchdowns and 295 yards earlier this month) this week to reach 50 for the season, a mark accomplished just twice in NFL history. Care to guess which two players put up 50-burgers? Arguably the two greatest quarterbacks to walk this Earth, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. The numbers present a pretty overwhelming case for Mahomes’ MVP candidacy. But even without any statistical backdrop, you could just as easily pull up a couple clips from YouTube, pair that entrée with a side of freshly-popped Orville Redenbachers, make a night of it and come to the same conclusion—that Mahomes is a missile-throwing mad man capable of intergalactic domination.

 

The “eye test” may not be the most scientific way to determine a quarterback’s worth but my god, the Mahomes highlight-reel sector of YouTube is quite the rabbit hole to go down. “Jesse, you coming out tonight?” “Nah man, I’m just gonna’ stay in and watch Mahomes highlights on YouTube.” “Again?!” If you’re willing to throw your entire social life to the wolves, may I suggest this Scorsese-ian masterpiece? By the end of it, you’ll look like Tom Hanks in Castaway and realize it’s 2020 and Dwayne Johnson has just been elected president.  

 

The Mahomes truther movement is truly ludicrous, but fortunately for you guys, you’ve caught me in a fabulous mood (once I press publish on this bad boy, I won’t have to write this column for another nine months!). So, in the spirit of giving, I’ll entertain your anti-Mahomes agenda, even if I don’t agree with your flawed premise.

 

One player drawing significant MVP buzz is the almighty Drew Brees, he of 74,437 career passing yards, easily the most in NFL history. Statistically, this may be his strongest chapter yet as the limitless 39-year-old has compiled an otherworldly 115.7 quarterback rating along with a 74.4 completion percentage, which would better the NFL record he set last season (72.0). MVP voters have always placed a high-premium on winning and Brees has certainly done his fair share of that this year. The Saints have already locked up the top seed in a loaded NFC and with any luck Sunday against the Panthers (they shouldn’t need any with Carolina starting third-stringer Kyle Allen at QB), they’ll secure their franchise-record 14th win of 2018.

 

It’s one of the league’s great injustices that Brees has gone this long without winning an MVP and after snubbing him for the better part of two decades, voters may be compelled to give the future Hall-of-Famer a lifetime achievement award. It would be like the time Leonard DiCaprio won Best Actor for The Revenant after the Academy cold-shouldered him for The Wolf of Wall Street, Titanic and The Departed (the latter two he wasn’t even nominated for!).

 

Brees’ glorious precision cannot be understated but let’s also consider that nearly all of his accomplishments have come at the Superdome, where defenses are routinely put out to pasture. As fantasy owners have learned the hard way, Brees is simply a different quarterback outside the state of Louisiana. On the road, he’s collected a 99.3 quarterback rating with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions compared to an immaculate 133.3 rating and a marvelous 21-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio in the Big Easy. On top of his road struggles, Brees has taken his foot off the gas recently, producing a pedestrian 84.7 quarterback rating with an equally underwhelming 6.44 yards per attempt over his last four games. With his late-season collapse fresh in voters’ minds, the former Super Bowl MVP may have blown his best and last opportunity at earning the league’s top honor.

 

Brees still poses the biggest threat to Mahomes, though others, including dynamic Seahawks signal-caller Russell Wilson, could also stand in his way. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the post-Boom Seahawks, but instead Seattle is headed back to the postseason, buoyed by a larger-than-life performance from the league’s shortest quarterback. Wilson has dialed back the scrambling in year seven of his Seahawks reign, but he’s been phenomenal with his arm, surging to career-highs in both touchdowns (34) and quarterback rating (112.7).

 

Unlike Brees, who has taken a hatchet to his MVP chances with his late-season swoon, Wilson has played his best football late in the year, starring in wins over Kansas City (three touchdowns, 57 rushing yards in Week 16), San Francisco (four touchdowns, no picks in Week 13) and Carolina (season-high 339 yards on elite 22-of-31 passing in Week 12). And let’s not discount the degree of difficulty that has gone into Wilson’s best season. Wilson has kept the Seahawks relevant despite sweeping offseason changes, many of them on offense including the departures of deep threat Paul Richardson and red-zone Hercules Jimmy Graham. Obviously, Seattle has endured more peaks and valleys than the Saints and Chiefs, who have dominated from start to finish this year. But the fact that Seattle has carved out a wild card berth following its offseason exodus speaks to Wilson’s leadership and locker-room presence. If intangibles count for anything, Wilson deserves as much consideration as anyone for MVP.

 

Colin Cowherd has publicly stumped for Andrew Luck’s MVP candidacy and while that wouldn’t be my first or even second choice, Luck certainly merits praise for producing arguably his best season coming off what many thought would be a career-ending injury. Luck himself admitted that his NFL future was hanging in the balance, but after a grueling recovery from shoulder surgery, the 29-year-old has made it out the other side, returning to elite form with a comeback campaign for the ages. Sporting career-highs in completion percentage (67.2) and quarterback rating (98.0), the former No. 1 pick has been a godsend for a Colts team that finished in the AFC basement without him last year. Luck can strengthen his already-booming MVP credentials with a strong showing in Sunday night’s win-or-go-home matchup with Tennessee.

 

Other candidates to consider are Philip Rivers, who has been at the forefront of the Chargers’ L.A. revival, and another Los Angeles icon, likely Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. No defensive player has earned top billing since Lawrence Taylor in 1986 and it’s unlikely Donald will be the one to buck that trend, but the dominant 27-year-old deserves recognition for what should be considered one of the greatest defensive seasons of all time. We’ve never seen an interior defensive lineman accomplish what Donald has achieved as a pass-rusher this year, registering a league-high 19.5 sacks. That puts him within striking distance of the NFL’s all-time mark of 22.5, currently held by New York Giant-turned-media-personality Michael Strahan. Donald would need a monster game in this week’s finale to knock Strahan from his pass-rushing throne, but don’t think it can’t happen. He’s going against the Niners, a team he obliterated for a career-high four sacks earlier this year. Already engraved on the league’s current Mount Rushmore of defensive talents, the fifth-year Pitt alum is on a Hall of Fame trajectory.  

 

But in a year chock full of offensive brilliance, nobody has shown the mastery displayed by Mahomes week in and week out. While the Texas Tech product isn’t technically a rookie—he saw the field once as Alex Smith’s understudy in 2017—his illustrious 2018 season would have to qualify as one of the greatest, if not the greatest debut season of all time. But more importantly, in a sport that has seen its reputation damaged by endless scandals ranging from concussions and domestic violence allegations to anthem protests, Mahomes has reminded us all how fun football can be with his endless improvising and prodigious offensive weaponry. Mahomes isn’t just good—he’s phenomenal and deserving of the league’s highest honor. There’s no other choice for MVP and I have a sneaking suspicion that Mahomes will have a whole shelf of MVP trophies and even a Lombardi or two by the time his career is over.

 

What’s the fantasy rub?

 

I’ve long advocated for jamming in lower-priced quarterbacks on DFS, mostly because it allows you to pay up at more top-heavy positions like running back and wide receiver. But this week, I may have to go in another direction. As usual, Mahomes is the top quarterback play by leaps and bounds, projected for nearly 26 FanDuel points according to Rotoworld’s lineup optimizer. With a can’t-miss home matchup against the Raiders, who he destroyed earlier this year, fading Mahomes, even at his aggressive $9,500 price tag on FanDuel, would be a mistake. Affording him won’t be easy, but it can be done—C.J. Anderson ($6,200), Jeff Wilson ($5,800), Royce Freeman ($4,700), Sterling Shepard ($5,500) and Jordy Nelson ($5,200) are a few of the lower-priced staples you can use to squeeze Mahomes in under FanDuel’s $60,000 salary cap.

 

Ideally you would stack Mahomes with one of Tyreek Hill ($7,800) or Travis Kelce ($7,700), who annihilated the Raiders for 167 yards and two touchdowns when he faced them earlier this month. Week 17 is always the most difficult one for fantasy owners to gauge because a number of teams have nothing to play for and could choose to rest their starters. But that won’t be the case for Kansas City as the Chiefs need a victory to secure home-field advantage in the AFC, while a loss could drop them all the way to the fifth seed, depending on how the Chargers fare in their finale at Denver. This isn’t the week to skimp at quarterback. Make sure the MVP is in your lineup. 



Jesse Pantuosco is a football and baseball writer for Rotoworld. He has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JessePantuosco.
Email :Jesse Pantuosco



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