CINCINNATI — Joey Franchise.
How about Joey MVP?
That was the talk in the press box among the peanut gallery after the Bengals once again defeated Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 on Sunday at Paycor Stadium.
After the win, quarterback Joe Burrow is now a legitimate contender for the NFL’s MVP award.
The Bengals are riding a four-game winning streak and are tied for first place in the AFC North with Baltimore, which is struggling with injuries.
Burrow threw for 286 yards with two touchdowns and completed 25 of 31 attempts with a passer rating of 126.6 in Sunday’s win.
Two weeks ago, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Burrow totaled 355 yards and four TDs in the victory.
Since Week 6, he has fired 15 TD passes — and has only been picked off three times.
“Absolutely,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said about his quarterback, when asked if he should be in the MVP discussion. “Absolutely. He’s playing at the level we need for him to lead us. To be confident that we can win every single game we play. Whatever those conversations are like, there’s no doubt as I’ve said before; I wouldn’t trade him for anyone in the world.”
This season, Burrow has thrown for 3,446 yards (second place) and 25 touchdowns (second place) with eight interceptions (22nd place).
He completion percentage is nearly 70, and he has a passer rating of 103.7.
Burrow is first among QBs with 8.7 yards per attempt, and second overall in completion percentage.
Not only is he being talked about for the MVP from the press and fans, but also in the locker-room.
“For sure. Just look at his numbers he’s putting up,” wide receiver Tee Higgins said after Sunday’s win. “He should be in the conversation for MVP. He’s the best as far as I’m concerned.”
And the stats keep getting better.
In non-division games this season, Burrow has thrown for 17 touchdowns with ZERO interceptions.
Keep in mind Joey Franchise was picked off four times in the season-opener debacle against the Steelers.
But since then, the new-improved offensive line has come together and given him better protection — and has slowed down the sacks.
And as a last resort, Burrow can use his legs if needed.
On Sunday, he ran for 46 yards and one touchdown.
“My legs have always been the last resort for me when the going gets tough,” Burrow said. “I know I can rely on that to make a play in a critical moment. I don’t do it often, but I know I have it in my back pocket always.”
Over the past couple of years covering the Bengals, Burrow seems to play well under pressure.
And the next several games will put the Bengals to the test.
This Sunday’s rematch with the Browns is big.
Joey Comeback has never defeated Cleveland in four tries.
Then Cincinnati goes on the road to Tampa Bay and New England, before finishing out the regular season at home against Buffalo and Baltimore.
All are significant games that hold playoff rewards if won.
“He’s one of the best quarterbacks in this league,” Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase said. “Everybody knows that. He should be in the MVP race. If he’s not it, he should be. Number one quarterback in the race.”
There was one moment during Sunday’s win over Kansas City that is not depicted through stats.
And it describes Burrow’s gritty determination to win.
Cincinnati had the ball on third down with the lead, and everyone assumed they would run the ball to wind down the clock.
Higgins said that he and Tyler Boyd looked at Burrow in the huddle and asked if they were going to run or pass.
“He said, ‘pass,’” Higgins said. “He said, ‘let’s get it done.’”
Joey MVP connected with Higgins on a 14-yard completion that basically ended the game.
But all the talk means little to Burrow right now.
He shrugged off the discussion in the press room about the league’s highest honor.
“I don’t play the game for those kinds of accolades,” he said. “I play the game for those guys in the locker-room. What it takes from me every Sunday, that’s what I’ll do. If I have to hand the ball off 72 times and come out with a win, I’ll be happy.”
The Bengals are in good position to make the playoffs.
But it’s not a guarantee.
They need at least two more wins to find a place in the postseason.
Five tough games stand the way.
But they seem to be hitting their stride at the right time.
If the Bengals make the playoffs on the back of Joe Cool, then he should be able to add MVP after his first name.