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Ben Margot, AP
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) passes against the Oakland Raiders during the second half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017.

Heading into Monday night's matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has firmly entrenched himself in the race for NFL MVP honors.

The former Ute standout is enjoying a breakout season in 2017. Through seven weeks of the NFL season, he leads the league in three key categories: completion percentage (72.4), yards per attempt (8.7) and passer rating (120.5). Leading that combination of categories has historically meant big things for quarterbacks.

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He is on pace to throw 34 touchdown passes this season, with 15 through seven games. Smith's previous season high is 23. In addition, he has yet to throw an interception in 2017.

Smith led USA Today's weekly NFL MVP tracker through the league's first six weeks, finally dipping to the No. 2 spot behind Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz following Week 7. Still, though the 5-2 Chiefs enter the game against Denver on a two-game losing streak, his performance even in defeat is striking, like in Week 7 against Oakland.

"Smith was sublime in K.C.'s latest loss, carving up the Oakland Raiders for 342 yards and three TDs last Thursday — not his fault the Chiefs defense couldn't hold a nine-point fourth-quarter lead," USA Today's Nate Davis wrote.

He is also among the best in the league at connecting on deep passes.

Earlier this month, Smith, a 13-year NFL veteran, emphasized that it is important to savor the moment.

"I think you have to enjoy the wins," Smith told ESPN. "If you're not enjoying the process, there's a problem. You're not doing it for all the right reasons. You invest so much with your teammates and your guys and everybody here that when you do have success, you do need to enjoy it and certainly, this team does that."

Van Noy defends Patriots offense

Former BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who is enjoying a breakout season with the New England Patriots, tied for the team lead with six tackles in the Patriots' 21-13 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. Following the game, he defended the other side of the ball when a reporter asked back-to-back questions about the Patriots' perceived struggles on offense and red-zone inefficiency.

“To be honest, I think that question kind of sucks,” Van Noy said, according to NESN.com. “I’m just keeping it real with you because it’s a three-phase game, and everybody has to do their part. If they’re putting points on the board and we’re getting stops, and we’re winning games, I think it’s a total team effort.

"Yeah, it might not be perfect, we might not score every time we’re in the red zone, but we’re getting points, and we’re getting stops, and special teams is playing lights out, so that’s why we’re winning games," Van Noy continued.

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And finally ...

Former Southern Utah safety Miles Killebrew, now with the Detroit Lions, is a native of Henderson, Nevada. On Sunday, he shared a picture of custom cleats he wore pregame that showed support for Las Vegas, with the hashtag #VegasStrong prominently displayed, less than one month after the mass shooting on the Vegas strip during a country music festival.


Locals in the NFL, Week 8

Here’s a look at how NFL locals performed in Week 8, including noteworthy snap counts:

Ravens 40, Dolphins 0

BALTIMORE

Bronson Kaufusi, DE, BYU, Timpview High: Not active for game.

Eric Weddle, S, Utah: Started at free safety and had three solo tackles while playing all 66 defensive snaps for the Ravens.

MIAMI

Isaac Asiata, OL, Utah and Spanish Fork High: Not active for game.

John Denney, LS, BYU: Came on as a reserve on special teams.

Vikings 33, Browns 16

MINNESOTA

No locals on roster

CLEVELAND

Kai Nacua, S, BYU: Came on as a reserve.

Nate Orchard, OLB, Utah and Highland High: Started at defensive end and had a quarterback hurry on a third-and-5 play that forced a Minnesota field goal on the next play.

Reggie Porter, CB, Utah: Came on as a reserve.

Bills 34, Raiders 14

BUFFALO

No local players on active roster

OAKLAND

James Cowser, DE, Southern Utah and Davis High: Had four tackles, including two solo stops and two on special teams.

Keith McGill, DB, Utah: Came on as a reserve.

Sean Smith, CB, Utah: Had three tackles, including two solo stops and one tackle on a third down that forced a punt on the ensuing play.

Donald Penn, OT, Utah State: Started at left tackle and played all 65 offensive snaps for the Raiders.

Bengals 24, Colts 23

CINCINNATI

Nick Vigil, LB, Utah State and Fremont High: Started at strongside linebacker and had four tackles, including three solo stops, a tackle for a loss and a pass deflection while playing all 74 defensive snaps for the Bengals.

INDIANAPOLIS

No local players on active roster

Patriots 21, Chargers 13

NEW ENGLAND

Trevor Reilly, LB, Utah: Had a special teams tackle.

Eric Rowe, CB, Utah: Not active for game.

Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU: Started at linebacker and tied for the team lead with six tackles, all solo, and added a tackle for loss and a pass deflection while playing all 56 defensive snaps for the Patriots. He had a tackle one yard short of a first down on a third-down play, forcing a punt.

LOS ANGELES

Michael Davis, CB, BYU: Had two kickoff returns for 36 yards and a special teams tackle.

Tenny Palepoi, DL, Utah, Snow College and Skyline High: Had two tackles, including a solo stop.

Sam Tevi, OL, Utah: Came on as a reserve on special teams.

Saints 20, Bears 12

NEW ORLEANS

Taysom Hill, QB, BYU: Not active for game.

Marcus Williams, S, Utah: Started at free safety and had four solo tackles while playing all 67 defensive snaps for the Saints.

CHICAGO

No local players on active roster

Falcons 25, Jets 20

ATLANTA

Derrick Shelby, DE, Utah: Started at defensive end and had four tackles, including a solo stop.

NEW YORK

No locals on roster

Eagles 33, 49ers 10

PHILADELPHIA

No locals on roster

SAN FRANCISCO

Zane Beadles, OL, Utah and Hillcrest High: Came on as a reserve.

Pita Taumoepenu, LB, Utah and Timpview High: Not active for game.

Panthers 17, Buccaneers 3

CAROLINA

Kaelin Clay, WR/PR, Utah: Had three punt returns for 22 yards.

Tyler Larsen, OL, Utah State and Jordan High: Started at center and played all 65 offensive snaps for the Panthers.

Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah, Snow College and Bingham High: Started at defensive tackle.

Jared Norris, LB, Utah: Came on as a reserve on special teams.

TAMPA BAY

Sealver Siliga, DT, Utah and Copper Hills High: Not active for game.

Seahawks 41, Texans 38

SEATTLE

Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State: Started at middle linebacker and had a season-high 12 tackles, including eight solo stops, while playing all 71 defensive snaps for the Seahawks. He had an assisted tackle on a third-and-4 play with less than two minutes remaining that forced a Texans punt, and Seattle scored the game-winning score on the ensuing drive.

HOUSTON

Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, Timpview High: Started at left guard and played all 71 offensive snaps for the Texans.

Cowboys 33, Redskins 19

DALLAS

No local players on active roster

WASHINGTON

Tony Bergstrom, OL, Utah and Skyline High: Came on as a reserve.

Steelers 20, Lions 15

PITTSBURGH

Brian Allen, CB, Utah: Not active for game.

DETROIT

Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU: Started at defensive end and had a 2-yard tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry on a third-down play.

Miles Killebrew, S, Southern Utah: Had two solo tackles.

Nevin Lawson, CB, Utah State: Started at cornerback and had five solo tackles.