Ryan Mayer

At the halfway point of the NFL season, we begin to take stock of what we have seen and re-calibrate our expectations for the rest of the year. Nowhere is that more evident than in Kansas City, where the Chiefs have roared out of the gates to a 7-1 start, with an offense that is lighting up the scoreboard against every team they face. Prior to the season, there were plenty of questions about how quarterback Patrick Mahomes would perform once he was given hold of the reins, and he has answered every one emphatically so far.

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Now, due to that performance, Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid are considered serious contenders to take home the MVP and Coach of the Year awards. We caught up with Inside the NFL analyst Ray Lewis to get his thoughts on those races, as well as which teams have been the most defensively stout in a league that has seemingly gone offense-crazy. You can catch Ray alongside fellow analysts Phil Simms and Boomer Esiason and host James Brown every Tuesday night at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on Showtime. (Editors note: This conversation has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.)

CBS Local Sports: At the midway point of the season, who do you think is the leader for MVP? Why?

Ray Lewis: Pat Mahomes. He’s a very special talent, but more importantly, he’s a special leader, and you can see that in him. I think it was a genius move by Andy Reid to hold this kid back for a year. Now, he comes out and has all these pieces around him. But, it’s one thing to be a dynamic player, it’s another to throw guys open like he does, or put them in position to make plays. There is no pass that this guy can’t complete.

More important than his athletic ability, for me… when I see a kid come into the national football league now, I want to see a leader. He’s a young leader, and that’s super exciting to see, especially in a game that’s all about glamour. This kid has his head on his shoulders right. He’s a superstar in what he is doing. He’s definitely my MVP right now.

CBS Local Sports: Several coaches are in the mix when talking about coach of the year. Who is your favorite for the award?

Ray Lewis: Honestly, I’m going with Andy Reid out of that mix. Hiding Pat Mahomes, and by that I mean, not exposing him last year and riding Alex Smith out. Letting him sit there for a year and now knowing that he had this secret weapon in his back pocket. What Kansas City is doing to people right now, only losing one game to New England 43-40, [and] that game could have gone either way. I’m going with Andy Reid for best coach.

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CBS Local Sports: It would seem that the Chiefs and Rams are fighting for the title of best offense in the league. Which of those teams do you think has the better unit?

Ray Lewis: I like the Chiefs overall. Their overall team is really special. But, I’m a Todd Gurley fan… so I think the Rams have the more dynamic player. If I had to give a slight edge to one over the other, I would probably go with Kansas City, because the Chiefs have some really dynamic pieces. The Rams have some really good pieces too, but the Chiefs have some really dynamic guys in special places.

CBS Local Sports: As you’ve said before, defense has proven to be a difficult task this year with scoring up across the league. However, which teams do you think are the best at limiting opposing offenses this year?

Ray Lewis: Well, the Ravens are still the number-one defense in football. Two bad weeks back-to-back against the Saints and Panthers, sure. They blew a double-digit lead to the Saints, and Cam put up 36 points. But the bottom line is that defense has shown — like with sacking Marcus Mariota 11 times a couple weeks ago — that they can be dominant. They are still the number-one defense in football right now. I think they are playing defense [well] enough that, if they get in the playoffs, it can be very interesting no matter who they see.

Then, you think about the Cowboys. Jaylon Smith is dynamic. He has a very bright future if he stays healthy. The Redskins defense has been strong as well. Those three right now are doing the things they should be doing.

CBS Local Sports: Which team (or teams) has been the biggest surprise?

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Ray Lewis: I’m still going to go with the Chiefs. We can say what we want to now about knowing how good they are now that we see it happening. But, nobody predicted that. Nobody predicted that they would be the top offense in football outscoring everybody. That’s why I think that’s probably the biggest shocker this year.