The race for the NFL MVP award has become a two-horse event.
And if you had your money on the veteran who still has plenty of life in his legs, and indeed his arm, then you made a wise choice.
Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes both prevailed in Week 16 but it was the former who strengthened his case for a third MVP title as the Packers moved closer to the top seed in the NFC.
Mahomes and the Chiefs have the top seed in the AFC locked up, yet last year’s Super Bowl MVP was well below his brilliant best in Week 16.
The Chiefs had a rare air of vulnerability in the penultimate week of the regular season while the team many expected them to meet in last season’s AFC Championship game are picking up steam and, along with the Buffalo Bills, may have the best shot of preventing Kansas City from returning to the grandest stage.
RODGERS MVP CASE GETS STRONGER
The elements and the Tennessee Titans were no match for Rodgers as he led the Packers to a 40-14 blowout win in snowy conditions at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
Rodgers’ stat line of 231 yards, four touchdowns and an interception is relatively unspectacular by his lofty standards.
However, a deeper dive into the numbers shows just how impressive he was once again in Week 16.
He failed to complete only four of his passes, resulting in a completion percentage of 84. According to the NFL’s NextGen Stats, this was 14.6 percentage points higher than his expected completion percentage.
Rodgers’ two best performances in terms of completion percentage over expected (CPOE) have come in the past three weeks, with this effort coming on the heels of a Week 14 game against the Detroit Lions in which his CPOE was 15 per cent.
Where Aaron Rodgers excelled as a passer in tonight’s win over the Titans:
10+ Air Yards
➤ 5/7, 91 yards, 3 TD, INT (+26.0% CPOE)
➤ 10/12, 140 yards, 2 TD (+25.0% CPOE)
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 28, 2020
The 2011 and 2014 MVP is saving his best of a stunning season for the final weeks and was aided against the Titans by an increasingly dangerous running game.
Rookie A.J. Dillon had 124 yards and two touchdowns on the ground while Aaron Jones went for 94 yards on just 10 carries.
Rodgers had a CPOE of 27.3 on play-action throws versus Tennessee. A successful rushing attack is not a necessity for an effective play-action attack, but it clearly makes life easier and, should Rodgers and the ground game continue to perform at this level into the postseason, it is tough to see any defense slowing down the Packers.
MAHOMES MAGIC FADING?
It is a strange comment to make about a 14-1 team that has locked up the number one seed in the AFC, but stopping the Chiefs appears to be getting slightly easier.
Kansas City needed a missed field goal from Younghoe Koo to escape with a 17-14 victory against the lowly Atlanta Falcons after an underwhelming performance from Mahomes.
Two weeks on from a three-interception game against the Miami Dolphins, Mahomes was intercepted again and was extremely fortunate not to throw another to AJ Terrell moments before he connected on the game-winning touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson in the fourth quarter.
In marked contrast to Rodgers, Mahomes’ CPOE was minus 7.9. Only five players had a worse CPOE in Week 16.
— George Kittle (@gkittle46) December 27, 2020
It was the kind of unconvincing display that will help tilt the MVP race further in Rodgers’ favour, but the Chiefs win did feature a piece of history for Travis Kelce.
Kelce’s seven-catch, 98-yard display took him to 1,416 receiving yards for the season, surpassing the single-season record of 1,377 set by George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers in 2018.
Kittle has been out for much of the season but returned from a foot injury in the 49ers’ win over the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday. His 92-yard effort in that game suggests he and Kelce could trade the record a few more times over the coming years.
RAVENS READY TO MAKE NOISE IN POSTSEASON?
The Baltimore Ravens took another step towards the postseason with a routine 27-13 over the New York Giants on Sunday.
With the comfortable margin of victory, the Ravens now lead the NFL with a point differential of plus 130.
Baltimore led the league in point differential last year and the Ravens are on course to achieve a rare feat.
No team have had the best point differential in successive years over the course of the past 25 NFL seasons.
Win and we’re in. pic.twitter.com/oFDyiayZxJ
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 27, 2020
The Ravens’ playoff hopes looked to be dwindling at the start of the month after a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers dropped them to 6-5.
However, Baltimore have racked up over 400 yards of offense in three of their past four games – they had 385 yards in their Week 14 thriller with the Cleveland Browns – a four-game winning streak putting them within touching distance of a Wild Card berth.
Their streak of 38 straight games with at least 100 rushing yards is the second-longest in NFL history and, with the ground game and reigning MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson rounding into the kind of form that saw them go 14-2 last season, the Ravens have the look of a team primed to make amends for 2019’s one-and-done playoff campaign.