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Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Minus Buzz, Patrick Mahomes Still Good as Ever

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterDecember 18, 2019

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 15: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs prepares to pass to the end zone during the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
David Eulitt/Getty Images

Patrick Mahomes reminds everyone why he's the MVP, Drew Brees makes a play for his legacy and Jameis Winston has the Bucs in a bind. All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.

    

1. How quickly we forget

It's fine to be obsessed with Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson. Or Deshaun Watson. Or Russell Wilson. Or Josh Allen. Or Drew Brees. Or any of the other great quarterbacks in the NFL this season. They are must-watch talents.

But NFL assistant coaches and team executives have been diligently reminding me not to forget about Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Jackson has taken up so much quarterback bandwidth that we have barely mentioned the reigning MVP this season (at least nationally), which is a mistake.

Mahomes missed two weeks because of a dislocated kneecap and has been hobbled by an ankle injury for much of the season. But before he suffered his kneecap injury, he was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month after the Chiefs went 4-0 to start the season. During that stretch, Mahomes had 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Then Mahomes got hurt and Jackson took off like a starship, as did Wilson.

Mahomes is now back, and he's again impossible to ignore. His performance against Denver on Sunday was a staggering a reminder of how special he is.

Once again, there was the speed used to bounce outside the pocket and create passing lanes. There was the accuracy. The arm strength. The intelligence.

It was all there, and he did it in a freaking snowstorm.

Mahomes threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns in the 23-3 win. He missed on only seven pass attempts and had only one interception while playing in conditions that were anything but passer-friendly.

Five games into his return, it's clear Mahomes is back. The guy who lit up the NFL before Jackson did. The guy who won the MVP last season. The guy who still might have the last laugh on all of his competition once the playoffs start.

Opponents should forget him at their own peril.

    

2. Not so fast, my friends

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 15:  Quarterback Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs throws a pass against pressure from defensive end Jonathan Harris #92 of the Denver Broncos during the second half  at Arrowhead Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Kans
Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

A lot of fans, media members and even people in the NFL have essentially penciled the Ravens and Patriots into the AFC title game. There's a lot of logic to that. 

The Ravens have evolved into a superteam led by Jackson and, well, the Patriots are the damn Patriots. They are champions until proven otherwise.

But both teams have weaknesses that can be exploited. The Ravens defense has been dominant at times and soft in other moments. They allowed Jets receiver Jamison Crowder to score two touchdowns and allowed 310 total yards of offense this past Thursday. And the Patriots offense has had plenty of problems moving the ball, especially in large chunks.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs have ripped off four wins in a row, during which they haven't given up more than 17 points in any game.

Kansas City has its weaknesses as well. The running game is pedestrian and the defense has been iffy. But with Mahomes back to his MVP self, the Chiefs might have just enough of everything to ruin a lot of predictions.

    

3. Deserving his due

BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 13: Head coach John Harbaugh interacts with Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens prior to playing against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on October 13, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Dan Kubus/Getty Images)
Dan Kubus/Getty Images

I asked one NFC assistant coach who he thought deserved to be named the Coach of the Year, and his answer was no surprise.

"It's [Ravens coach John] Harbaugh," the assistant said. "He's an easy choice. The way he's coached Lamar Jackson, and letting Lamar be Lamar, is one of the best pure coaching jobs I've ever seen."

Indeed, Harbaugh has maximized Jackson's talent by tailoring a scheme around his strengths and not trying to fit him into some inflexible scheme. Other coaches would be wise to follow suit with their stars.

    

4. With the first pick in the 2020 draft, the Bengals select...

Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

It seems as though if the Bengals do get the first overall pick in the draft—they have a two-game lead for that dubious honor with two games to go—LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is effectively a lock, barring anything mortifying emerging about him during the predraft process.

"Not even the Bengals can f--k up this pick," one NFC West scout said.

Burrow is viewed as one of the most solid quarterback prospects in the past several years, and the one-win Bengals are in desperate need of just such a player.

Given their history, that means they'll probably take a linebacker with the No. 1 overall pick.

    

5. Impossible to ignore anymore

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - DECEMBER 16: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints walks off the field after 34-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on December 16, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Im
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Drew Brees is not generally viewed as a top-five all-time quarterback. At least, that's the case among many people around the NFL to whom I speak.

Many would rank the top five something like this: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Joe Montana and John Elway. A few would also put Dan Marino and John Unitas in that tier.

Brees isn't included for the most part, but two things that happened Monday may cause people to begin thinking differently.

First, he set the all-time passing touchdowns record with four TD passes to give him 541 for his career, eclipsing Manning's 539. Brady has 538.

Brees also finished 29-of-30 for 307 yards and four touchdowns against the Colts, which set a single-game completion-percentage record (minimum 25 pass attempts).

Even though defenses can barely touch a quarterback these days, Brees' performance Monday was still a stunning level of efficiency and mastery of the position.

Maybe it's time to go back to the drawing board while ranking all-time QBs.

    

6. Top target

Brees isn't the only Saints player dominating this season. Star receiver Michael Thomas had 12 catches for 128 yards and one touchdown against the Colts. That's his fifth game of the season with at least 10 catches, 100 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown.

That put him in a tier of his own, according to ESPN Stats & Info:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Michael Thomas has his 5th game this season with 10 Rec, 100 Rec Yds and a Rec TD. That breaks a tie with Torry Holt in 2003 and Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014 for the most such games in a single season in NFL history.

As of right now, Thomas is the best receiver in football.

    

7. McDermott continues to make history

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Sean McDermott has now led the Bills to the playoffs twice in his first 3 seasons. Wade Phillips, Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey, Dick Jauron, Chan Gailey, Doug Marrone, and Rex Ryan led Buffalo to the playoffs 0 times in the previous 17 seasons, since 2000. https://t.co/N5hywf3YZE

In leading the Bills to the playoffs again, it's clear how good Bills coach Sean McDermott has been. But in recent Buffalo Bills history, he may be even better than people realize.

As ESPN Stats & Info noted: 

McDermott may not win Coach of the Year, but he's been a breath of fresh air for a Bills franchise with only one playoff appearance in the past 20 years.

       

8. Split decision

TAMPA, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 25: Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gets interviewed after defeating the San Francisco 49ers 27-9 at Raymond James Stadium on November 25, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winton is a turnover machine. But he is also producing numbers never before seen in NFL history.

Winston has thrown a career-high 24 interceptions this season. At the same time, he is also the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 450 yards in consecutive regular-season games. 

Winston both saves and kills his team. Now that he's in his fifth NFL season, that isn't likely to change. Coaches have tried to improve his decision-making dating back to his college days, and none have succeeded.

With free agency awaiting Winston after the season, the Buccaneers are facing a difficult decision about whether to bring him back.

      

9. Logjam

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

There are now four teams tied for the NFC lead at 11-3. According to @EliasSports, this is just the second time since the NFL switched to a 16-game schedule in 1978 that there is a four-way tie for the NFC lead with two weeks to play or fewer. Also: 2014 (5 teams at 11-4). https://t.co/VfLsgxrDB5

There are now four teams tied at the top of the NFC at 11-3: San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans and Green Bay. Beyond making for a fun and meaningful final two games of the regular season, it is also historic:

That should make for a wild final two weeks.

     

10. Josh Gordon's future

LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 06: Josh Gordon #10 of the New England Patriots warms up prior to the game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on October 6, 2019 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The NFL suspended Seattle Seahawks receiver Josh Gordon again Monday for violating its policies on performance-enhancing substances and substances of abuse. It's just the latest problem for a player who has run afoul of the league many times before.

Unsurprisingly, teams are saying that Gordon's NFL career is over. That has been said before, and it has been wrong. But it sure does seem like that notion is correct this time.

Some fans will say Gordon is getting what he deserves. Other people who have a beating heart and even a modicum of decency will recognize the sinister and unwavering nature of addiction.

It's a disheartening story for a player who could have been so great.

        

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.