Mahomes off to impressive start, but it's early

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

September 30, 2018 09:14 PM

In less than a month, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes went from “Is he ready?” to the betting market favorite to win the 2018 NFL Most Valuable Player Award. Fans and bettors get their first national TV look at Mahomes Monday night when the undefeated Chiefs visit divisional rival Denver on ESPN. 

While Mahomes has posted amazing stats through three games (a stunning passer rating of 137.4, an average just below 300 passing yards per game, and a 13-0 TD/INT ratio), there could still be some skeletons in the closet that will be visible before Halloween. Let’s see if we can find any.

First key to remember is that rules changes have helped quarterbacks this season. That’s likely to change the standards we’ve grown accustomed to for measuring excellence. Whatever constitutes “MVP caliber” is likely to be a huge step forward from recent stat thresholds. And, it’s going to take a lot bigger sample size than three games to get a true sense of that.

Secondly, young, very mobile quarterbacks have started out well in recent early looks, only to fall back to earth once opposing defenses have learned their tendencies. And, as we discussed recently regarding DeShaun Watson, effectiveness for this prototype can wane after leg injuries reduce escape-ability. 

Mahomes debuts at the convergence of his own peak mobility…against defenses who haven’t seen him before…in a world with friendlier rules for quarterbacks. He might be a stat machine for a while. 

The obvious statistical step is to look at his opposing defenses. Those stunning early numbers become less impressive if he was facing bad pass defenses compared to the rest of the league. Let’s see what passing lines other quarterbacks have posted vs. the LA Chargers, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco.

Other QBs vs. Mahomes’ Opponents

Ryan Fitzpatrick: 30-50-3-392 vs. Pittsburgh

Jared Goff: 29-36-1-350 vs. LA Chargers

Matthew Stafford: 34-53-0-329 vs. San Francisco

Kirk Cousins: 20-36-0-227 vs. San Francisco

Josh Allen: 18-33-2-209 vs. LA Chargers

Tyrod Taylor: 15-40-1-150 vs. Pittsburgh

Combined TD/INT ratio: 13-6

I ordered those by passing yardage, so we could mentally use 300 yards as a cut-off. Mahomes is averaging just below 300 passing yards per game. Three other quarterbacks have topped that, though it took a lot more passes to get there. Patrick’s 13-0 TD/INT ratio is better than the composite 13/6 compiled by the other six in the sample. 

No surprises on the list. Mahomes is a lot more dynamic than Taylor, much more game-ready than Allen, and less “out of control” than guys like Fitzpatrick and Stafford are allowed to be in shootouts. 

Goff is probably a great match for those of you thinking about betting the MVP race. Goff is going to be an MVP candidate if the Rams play to the expectations of futures prices. His net passing line of 29-36-1-350 vs. the Chargers is superior to Mahomes’ 15-27-0-256 in completion percentage and yardage volume.

Nothing wrong with betting Mahomes game-by-game until the league and market show signs of figuring him out. The Chiefs have beaten the spread by 13, 9, and 5 points in their three win/covers. You can see the market closing in. Let’s hold off on the MVP talk until December.

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