They won’t meet in Super Bowl LV — quarterback Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers spoiled that — so the only Aaron Rodgers–Patrick Mahomes head-to-head matchup this season comes on Saturday night at the 10th annual NFL Honors (9 p.m. ET, CBS).
One of them will almost certainly be named the NFL’s MVP.
And it won’t be the first for either one.
Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers‘ 37-year-old quarterback, would become a three-time winner — joining Joe Montana, Brett Favre. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady — as the only players to win it more than twice.
Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs‘ 25-year-old quarterback, would become the 10th player to win multiple MVPs and would join Jim Brown as the only players to win it twice in their first four NFL seasons.
In the voting for the Associated Press All-Pro team, picked by the same group that selects the MVP, Rodgers received 46 of the 50 votes. Mahomes and Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen each received two. There are no second- and third-place votes; selectors pick one player for the MVP.
If Rodgers wins it over Mahomes, it would be the sixth time in the Super Bowl era quarterbacks on teams with the top two records finished one-two in the MVP voting.
Here’s a closer look at the cases for Rodgers and Mahomes:
Regular-season stats: 372-of-526 (70.7%), 4,299 yards, 48 TDs, 5 INTs, 121.5 QBR
Case for Rodgers: Remember that receiver Rodgers needed? He never got him. Not only did the Packers take quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of last year’s draft, they ignored the receiver spot completely, meaning Rodgers essentially had the same group of pass-catchers (wide receivers and tight ends) he had the year before. He has a star in Davante Adams. But how many other quarterbacks could do what Rodgers did with Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling as their Nos. 2 and 3 receivers? And how many people had heard of tight end Robert Tonyan before this season? Yes, coach Matt LaFleur’s scheme helped get players wide open more often than most — and he should get some run for Coach of the Year — but Rodgers’ group of weapons doesn’t stack up with Mahomes’.
Key MVP stat: Forty-eight touchdowns and five interceptions. Rodgers became the third player in NFL history to lead the league in passing touchdowns while throwing the fewest interceptions, according to Elias, joining Brady (36/4 in 2010) and Johnny Unitas (19/7 in 1958).
Case against Rodgers: It’s good this is a regular-season award, because he wasn’t at his best in the NFC Championship Game. He became the first quarterback to lose in four straight conference title game appearances when the Packers lost to Tampa Bay. He’s thrown at least one interception in each of his five NFC title game starts. But since the voters must turn in their ballots the week after the regular-season finale, there’s not much of a case to be made against Rodgers.
Nitpicking number: Maybe the offensive line should be given more credit for Rodgers’ success. He was sacked 20 times, and the Packers led the NFL in ESPN’s pass block win rate at 73.8%. — Demovsky
Regular-season stats: 390-of-588 (66.3%), 4,740 yards, 38 TDs, 6 INTs, 108.2 QBR
Case for Mahomes: He led the NFL in passing yards until the season’s final game, which he sat out because the 14-1 Chiefs had already clinched the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed. Mahomes was at his best when the Chiefs needed him most. He guided them to a 4-0 record against teams that eventually made the playoffs. In those games, Mahomes completed 70% of his passes for 1,326 yards with 12 touchdowns, zero interceptions and a passer rating of 118.6. In the three instances when the Chiefs needed a score on their final possession of the fourth quarter to either win or send a game to overtime, Mahomes delivered a scoring drive.
Key MVP stat: Mahomes was at his best in the fourth quarter and overtime. He had a QBR of 93.7 after the third quarter, which was best in the league and 17 points higher than Rodgers, who finished ninth.
Case against Mahomes: There is no case against Mahomes that is airtight. He did get sloppy at times, particularly in a Week 14 game against the Dolphins. He threw three interceptions — two in the first quarter — and took a 30-yard loss on a sack when he made a bad decision to try to avoid the pass rush. He still wound up throwing for 393 yards and two touchdowns.
Nitpicking number: Mahomes was 13th in the league in QBR in the red zone at 80.2. Rodgers was first at 99.1. — Teicher