(Ron Jenkins / Associated Press)

When the 2018 NFL season comes to a close there are only two names that have a legitimate shot at the MVP award. Both are quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints have dominated offensively of late and that put Brees at the forefront. This included a 51-14 win over the Cincinnati Bengals and a 48-7 win over the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

Sometimes one game can change that momentum. That happened Thursday as the Dallas Cowboys defense was stellar. Brees for the first time in his career started 0-4. At halftime, the Saints prolific offense did not put up any points and wound up scoring 10 in total far from their season average of 37.2 points per game. New Orleans defense came up with a big turnover late in fourth, with Cameron Jordan sacking Dak Prescott and forcing a fumble.

Yet, on the ensuing possession, Brees threw an interception sealing the Cowboys victory. He finished 18 for 28 with a touchdown and the aforementioned interception, while throwing for 127 yards. Dallas held New Orleans to 176 total yards.

In a league where throwing for 300 plus yards has become the new norm, Brees has failed to throw for over 200 yards in three of his last six games. He’s also thrown all three of his interceptions in that time frame as well.

Excluding tonight’s game Brees ranked no.1 in QB rating and completion percentage, third in touchdowns, sixth in completions, seventh in yardage, eighth in yards per game and 17th in yards per completion. So naturally, many assumed that Brees and the Saints high-powered offense and New Orleans’ 10-game win streak would walk into Big D and roll the Cowboys, right?

What many are failing to see is that the Cowboys–for all of their much-maligned Prescott and issues on offense prior to adding Amari Cooper–is their underrated defense. Led by DeMarcus Lawrence, first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, Dallas’ fifth-ranked defense looked and played with a Texas-sized chip on their shoulders in harassing the Canton-bound former Purdue Boilermaker standout.

While Brees is still one of the front runners for the MVP award, he didn’t help his chances in solidifying his grip on it. Thanks to the way Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is playing and the Saints’ remaining schedule, Brees may no longer be the proverbial and sentimental lock he once was.

Unlike the Chiefs, the Saints don’t have much competition when it comes to winning the division. Two more wins clinches the division. Then the question becomes does New Orleans attempt to get the no.1 seed? Or play it safe once clinched? Their remaining schedule is Tampa Bay, Carolina, Pittsburgh and Carolina again.

Tampa Bay is the only team the Saints will face that has a losing record.

The Los Angeles Rams are the no.1 seed in the NFC with a record of 10-1. On Sunday, their opponent is the Detroit Lions and their remaining four games after that are against Chicago, Philadelphia, Arizona and San Francisco.

Only Chicago has a winning record.

The no.1 seed is wide open in the AFC with the Chiefs leading the way. There are three teams within a game though and those are the Los Angeles Chargers, New England Patriots and Houston Texans.

Meaning that Kansas City doesn’t have the luxury New Orleans has. It also makes sense to have the 39-year-old Brees fresh for the playoffs.

The question is, will Brees still be in contention for it to matter. One bad game and quarter shouldn’t effect his chances, but it certainly put a blemish on his hopes.

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