KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Hope you had time to catch your breath.
The Chiefs have been playing football since the second week of training camp. Since early August. When the Royals only had 79 losses. When we were still doing primary elections. When everybody had doubts about Patrick Mahomes.
Then they waited until Thanksgiving to take a break. The latest of any team in the NFL (tied with the Rams). Heck, the Redskins and Panthers took their bye in September!
So here now, not so much some mid-season awards, but some Bye Week Awards for the Chiefs.
Player of the Year
James Winchester. Just kidding. How can it not be the guy who might be named the MVP of the entire league? Patrick Mahomes has not only exceeded his extremely high expectations this season, he's climbed past those expectations, bagged those expectations in a burlap sack, and then hurled those expectations off the top of Mount Everest down a steep ravine to an icy death. His 37 touchdowns through 11 games are the second-most by any quarterback in the history of the NFL. And minus the Rams game -- where he treated the football like a greased pig -- Mahomes' turnovers have been scarce. But the best part has been the results. Philip Rivers can put up stats. Mahomes is producing Madden-type numbers while delivering a 9-2 record, best in the AFC.
Play of the Year
Unlike Player of the Year, there are about a dozen candidates for this one. Like Player of the Year, they almost all include Mahomes. The scramble left, scramble right touchdown fling through a tight window to Chris Conley was jaw-dropping. But that was against the 49ers. His 75-yard TD pass to Tyreek Hill to draw even in the waning moments in New England was unbelievable. But that was in a loss. Kareem Hunt disappeared into a tackle once only to reappear and completely clear a defender on a hurdle. That was pretty sweet. But again it was in a blowout win. That's why the Play of the Year goes to the left-handed pass to Hill for a first down in Denver. That led to a score and was part of a 4th quarter comeback in a tough environment against a rival team inside the Chiefs division.
Game of the Year
There have been plenty of great Wins of the Year: @ Chargers, @ Steelers, vs Jaguars, @ Broncos. By the title of this category is Game of the Year. And since I said following the Chiefs/Rams game, "That was maybe the greatest NFL game I've ever seen," the Chiefs/Rams game wins out in this award even though the Chiefs didn't win out. It was like a college game, a level which I would argue produces far more classics than the NFL level. Fourteen touchdowns and countless lead changes between two great teams with some of the best players at their positions in the NFL. And it wasn't just offense. The defenses scored 21 points themselves, had seven sacks, and forced seven turnovers. Oddly this game edges out the Chiefs other loss: to the Patriots. Win or lose, Kansas City football is must-see TV in 2018.
You can't win two awards (it's a strict, Mick Shaffer rule in this column) so Mahomes is exempt from taking this one home. Instead, it will go to Kareem Hunt. I know Tyreek Hill leads the AFC in receiving and in touchdowns. I know Travis Kelce is the best tight end in the world. But, if Mahomes has been the straw that stirs the drink this season, Hunt has been the ice, or something. (Not sure about this analogy.) He's been the rock of this offense. The hit-you-in-the-mouth to Mahomes/Hill/Kelce & Company's football ballet. Tough at the ends of games to salt away victories. Hurdles for touchdowns in the middle of games. Reliable in the passing game. The list goes on and on. Hunt led the league in rushing last year but arguably has had a better 2018. He's third in yards this year and is, frankly, running with a power we didn't see his rookie year.
Patrick Mahomes. Just kidding, again. Even though you could make this argument. The Rams game was a microcosm of the Chiefs defensive season. Lots of sacks, some turnovers, and big, memorable plays. But in the end, they gave up a lot of yards and a ton of points. I know Dee Ford might be a lot of people's pick for Defensive MVP and he would be a good one. He's got nine sacks and five forced fumbles. He's on pace for a career year. In a season full of defensive injuries, Ford has been a steady, dominant force. But my Chiefs Defensive MVP is Chris Jones. Playing in the middle of all the trench traffic, Jones also has nine sacks, including at least one in the last seven games. Jones has also two forced fumbles and has four passes defensed. Plus he had a memorable pick-6 against the Jaguars.
Coach of the Year
Eric Bieniemy. Plain and simple. Andy Reid has been awesome. But he's always awesome. We forget Bieniemy is in his first season as an NFL offensive coordinator. Sure Mahomes has helped Bieniemy. But Bieniemy has helped Mahomes. Bieniemy has mixed the perfect blend of creativity and power into his offense. His unit is third in the NFL in yards, second in points per game, and first in yards per play at an unheard of 7.0 yards gained on average every play. No wonder Dustin Colquitt rarely punts. By the way, special teams coach Dave Toub deserves an honorable mention nod in this category. He should have several NFL head coaching offers by now.
Rookie of the Year
Thanks to good drafting in previous years the Chiefs haven't had to rely on rookies in 2018, but the best of the bunch was their first pick this year -- Breeland Speaks. Justin Houston has only played in seven games this season. So the Chiefs have had to call on Speaks, who has 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a memorable forced fumble of Tom Brady, and a couple of fumble recoveries.