Brian Allee-Walsh

Drew Brees joins Patrick Mahomes in the NFL MVP race, but the Saints need a rebound

Week 13 of the NFL season proved to be a total bummer on two fronts for the New Orleans Saints.

First, by virtue of a 30-16 road victory against the Detroit Lions, the Los Angeles Rams (11-1) overtook the Black and Gold (10-2) in the all-important race for homefield advantage in the NFC with four games remaining in the regular season.

And secondly, QB Drew Brees lost ground in the league MVP race after the Dallas Cowboys muzzled him and the Saints’ high-powered offense en route to a shocking 13-10 upset win at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Coupled with Brees pedestrian performance on a national stage, I sense Kansas City rookie QB Patrick Mahomes might have overtaken No. 9 after showcasing his passing and running skills in the Chiefs’ 40-33 road victory against the Oakland Raiders. Mahomes led the Chiefs in rushing (52 yards) and now has a league-best 40 TD passes after throwing four scores against the Raiders.

As of today, I no longer believe the league’s most notable individual award is Brees’ to lose after being made to look mortal by a young, confident and stout Cowboys defense. He came back to the pack, despite still owning eye-popping stats through 12 games: 123.2 passer rating, 30-3 TD-to-INT ratio, 75.5 completion percentage.

San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers, Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck, and Los Angeles Rams DT Aaron Donald and RB Todd Gurley are in the MVP discussion but in the end the winner will be either Brees or Mahomes.

With regards to NFC homefield advantage, I suspect Brees and the NFC South-leading Saints will right the ship beginning Sunday at noon (FOX) against the surging Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7) at Raymond James Stadium and set the tone for a strong finish at Carolina (Dec. 17) and home against the Pittsburgh Steelers (Dec.23) and the Panthers (Dec. 30).

Let’s be honest: Thursday night at Jerry World’s proved to be the perfect storm for Dallas, or an aberration depending on your point of view.

The Saints entered the primetime game as darlings of the national media, surging to the top of most NFL power rankings after winning 10 straight games mostly in dominant fashion. The Cowboys were playing on their home turf and feeling their oats after winning three consecutive games and climbing atop the NFC East standings.

Week 14 is the next chapter in the exciting 2018 NFL season that features two fluid and compelling head-to-head battles -- NFC homefield advantage between the Saints and Rams and the league MVP award beween Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes.

May the best team and player win.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.
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