Unpopular Opinions

Patrick Mahomes will hit previously unthinkable 6,000-yard mark

Listen, I don't try to live my life as a contrarian. That's not true -- I kind of do. I spend a lot of time in public houses and taverns, and I have a two-hour commute that allows me to hear a lot of the sports world's most popular opinions. Sometimes, I think it's best to take a look at the other side.

In this space, I articulate positions that are the opposite of what most people think -- unpopular opinions, if you will -- and explain why, well, my unpopular opinions are right and everyone else is wrong. Below, I forecast something that was previously unimaginable.

Five thousand yards passing isn't cool. You know what's cool? SIX thousand yards passing.

Yep, I needed to go "Social Network" on this one. Because, with apologies to Justin Timberlake, Patrick Mahomes is what's cool right now, and the guy is about to take prolific quarterbacking to another stratosphere by becoming the NFL's first 6,000-yard(!) passer this season.

No, you don't need to go and re-check the title of this recurring column -- it's still "Unpopular Opinions," not ridiculous ones. Mahomes is going to hit the 6K mark in 2019. This is not a ludicrous statement.

Honestly, this would have felt crazy to write just a year or two ago. But this is where we are today. It's a pass-happy league, to say the least. Remember the day when 25,000 career passing yards all but assured you a bronze bust in Canton? Nowadays, that's a nice mid-career stretch. The stakes have been raised! Five thousand yards in a season is old news. Even Ben Roethlisberger piled up 5,129 last year. That's not meant to be a shot at Big Ben -- OK, maybe a little -- but it's time to raise the bar.

And here's the crazy thing: Mahomes is actually on pace to blow past the 6K mark. If you project his current production over the rest of the season, he's on his way to 6,373 yards. That'd eclipse Peyton Manning's single-season record of 5,477 by a whopping 896 yards!

I know, I know: I hate the "on pace" stuff, too. My dad always liked to do the "Hey, look: Javier Baez is on pace for 324 home runs" after a player hit a pair of bombs on Opening Day. Me? I'm typically skeptical of huge projections off small sample sizes. But Mahomes is now operating at a level that you can't pump the breaks on. Now, you'll have some retired quarterbacks come out and say, *"Wake me when Mahomes wins a Super Bowl."* Which is the kind of thing you say when Jay Cutler boasts more career passing yards than you. But there is no denying the dude's transcendent talent.

A lot of people -- myself included -- thought that maybe Mahomes was due for some natural regression following an awe-inspiring 2018 that saw him rack up 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns in his very first season as the Chiefs' starter. And hell, if I'm making confessions here ... In the walk-up to last week's highly anticipated Baltimore-Kansas City game, I was touting the Ravens' offense as the NFL's best. I waxed poetic about Lamar Jackson and Co. in this space. Don't get it twisted: I still love what Baltimore does on offense -- it looks like a perfect playoff attack. But what Mahomes is doing -- with yet another bloated stat line in the 33-28 win over the Ravens that wasn't as close as the final score indicates -- is otherworldly.

I mean, the dude won the MVP award last year -- and he is even better in 2019. His numbers this season are ridiculous. His 134.9 passer rating would shatter Aaron Rodgers' single-season record of 122.5. 10.5 yards per attempt? That's a video game number. OK, so he's only on pace for 53 touchdown passes, which would fall two short of Peyton's single-season mark. I guess he's a Gen Z slacker. Like, come on, pick up that pace a little bit, Patrick. I kid. Mahomes has recorded at least three touchdown passes in every game this season without an interception. Which is insane. If he goes out there and throws three more scoring strikes without a pick this week, he will become the first player to do so over the opening four weeks of a season in the Super Bowl era. And if I'm being honest, I'd be shocked if he didn't do it.

That's no disrespect to Detroit (2-0-1), the team hosting the Chiefs (3-0) on Sunday. The Lions currently possess a top-10 pass defense by several metrics. Only the Patriots boast a lower opponent completion percentage than Detroit's 52.8 percent. The Lions own the seventh-best passer rating against (80.1) and they're tied for ninth with four touchdown passes allowed. They're even getting to the quarterback this year, with nine sacks over three games (tied for ninth).

But I know how Lions fans think. And while they are ecstatic about being undefeated (technically) after three weeks, they are always waiting for something bad to happen. You come to expect that with this franchise. It's inevitable -- like people being unreasonably upset after the announcement of the Super Bowl halftime show headliners. Like, does it really matter to you that much? (Side note: If Guns N' Roses isn't the halftime show for SB LVI in L.A., we riot.) For Detroit, that inevitable bad thing is the Chiefs. You see, coach Matt Patricia has a rivalry with Andy Reid. Much like Fyre Festival has a rivalry with Coachella. Patricia faced Reid twice while he was defensive coordinator of the Patriots. Reid won both games, with his team averaging 41.5 points and 490 yards, while converting nearly half of its third-down attempts.

Oh, and then there's the dome factor. Mahomes has actually never played under the roof during his two-plus seasons in the NFL. He probably should have played his first NFL dome game last February, but it's kind of a jerk move to bring that up here. Anyway, try to contain your shock, but Mahomes was, uh, kinda good in indoor settings at the college level. Well, in four such games, Mahomes did have a 1-3 record. Which, well, he played for Texas Tech. So maybe it's a miracle he won a single one of those games. But in those four games, Mahomes averaged nearly 500 yards passing (492.3, to be exact), while throwing 19 touchdowns against just four picks. Yes, three of those games were against Baylor, a.k.a., the Big 12's Lions. But he did do it against LSU, as well, so it wasn't just the opponent.

And now that I think about it, maybe this isn't even that bold a take, saying Mahomes will reach 6,000 yards passing. Because the scary thing to think about is that he's going to get Tyreek Hill back from injury at some point. Mahomes has racked up 1,195 yards in three games, and only 16 of those came on connections with the most explosive receiver in the game today. I know a lot of people have said the Chiefs should consider offering up a bushel of first-round draft picks for Jalen Ramsey, but maybe they just say screw that and see if they can rescue Stefon Diggs from the Vikings (and make defensive coordinators across the league suddenly lose consciousness).

If Mahomes is to reach 6,000, he'll need to average 369.6 yards per game over the final 13 games of the season. Is that so hard to fathom? Just two weeks ago, the guy had 278 yards and fourth touchdown passes in one quarter!

The biggest impediment to Mahomes reaching such uncharted territory could come in a three-game stretch in mid-December. This is Kansas City's slate in Weeks 14-16: at New England (the Pats haven't allowed an offensive touchdown since last season's AFC Championship Game), vs. Denver (have to imagine Vic Fangio will have the Broncos' D humming again by December, right?) and at Chicago (K.C.'s likely Super Bowl opponent -- yeah, I said it). And if the AFC West continues to play like the Big West, Mahomes might not even play in Week 17.

But I'm telling you: Patrick Mahomes is going to throw for 6,000 yards, and I'm here for it.

One thing, though: Maybe we should think about dropping his first name altogether and just refer to him as Mahomes. It's cleaner.

Follow Adam Rank on Twitter @adamrank.

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