Last weekend, Bills-Chiefs lived up to the hype and then some. Although lower scoring than many expected, the two AFC juggernauts were competitive from start to finish, culminating with Buffalo taking an effective two-game lead for the conference's No. 1 seed.
But that's not all. It also secured Josh Allen's spot as the NFL MVP front-runner with 12 weeks to go in the regular season.
Although it's a long season, Allen moved into first among quarterbacks who have started six games (a.k.a. removing Tua Tagovailoa) in QBR (75.4), passer rating (109.1), yards per attempt (8.3), and yards per game (330.0). He's also fourth among QBs in rushing yards (257) and third in yards per attempt (5.5).
And Allen isn't the only big mover in this week's MVP watch. We've got a new entrant into the top five for the first time, and we're also going to honor a player who nobody thought would enter the MVP discussion this season.
Sleeper MVP Candidate
Geno Smith, QB, Seattle Seahawks
OK, so Smith is more likely to win Comeback Player of the Year than MVP; his odds at BetMGM are +12500, behind such luminaries as Daniel Jones, Justin Jefferson, and an injured Tagovailoa. But it's still worth reflecting on his outstanding start. The 32-year-old hasn't been a full-time starter since his second season in 2014 and is finally fulfilling his potential as a former second-round pick. He's actually putting up better numbers than Russell Wilson did last season (not to mention this season): a league-best 73.4 percent completion rate, a 68.3 QBR (fourth), 8.5 adjusted yards per attempt, and even the fifth-best DVOA (21.8 percent). It's going to be fascinating to see what kind of free-agent deal he gets this offseason.
Top 5 MVP Candidates Entering Week 7
5. Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
The Tiger King slides just ahead of Justin Herbert for the final spot on our list after an outstanding four-touchdown performance to get the Bengals back to .500. Cincinnati looks like it's back in the playoff picture, and Burrow has 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns (two rushing), with just one pick and eight sacks, over his last four games. He's got a ways to go to move further up this list, but his early-season struggles appear to be behind him.
4. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
Jackson's stock is falling after a brutal game that was punctuated by a pair of turnovers. However, he still ranks among the league leaders in QBR (64.1, fifth), touchdown percentage (7.2, second), and quarterback rushing (451 yds., first). If the Ravens' close-game luck improves, it's not hard to see this former MVP regaining his place high on this list.
3. Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
In a normal year, Hurts putting up this kind of performance on a team this good would be enough to win. It's too bad he's playing at the same time as peak Mahomes and Allen. Hurts has a bye this week but will have a chance to pad his stats when he returns with upcoming games against the Steelers, Texans, and Commanders.
2. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
It turns out Mahomes is human after all. Sure, he may lead the NFL in touchdown rate (7.4 percent) and is among the top five in QBR (74.2), passer rating (106.1), yards per game (289.3), and adjusted yards per attempt (8.3). But unless he overtakes Allen for the AFC's top seed, the narrative may be too much to overcome.
1. Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills
Allen already had pretty favorable MVP odds before beating the Chiefs, but now they're up to +150. Barring an injury — and he's yet to miss a game since his rookie season — it's going to be hard to displace him. It's been incredible to see what he does with such a talented receiving corps as he fulfills his potential.