With the NFL season officially halfway over, it’s a good time to take a look at the MVP race in the betting market. With at least eight games in hand for the leading candidates, we have a good idea of their 2020 body of work, but there is still plenty to be decided.
At midseason last year, Lamar Jackson was in the conversation, but it really took a dominant stretch from Weeks 9 to 12 – during which his Ravens beat the Patriots, Bengals, Texans and Rams by double digits (with two of those games in primetime) – to secure his lead atop the board. Russell Wilson was actually the favorite going into Week 10 (at +250), with Jackson at +350 and Aaron Rodgers at +600.
This year’s leaderboard looks similar, so let’s take a look at the top five and see if there’s any value to be had:
5. Tom Brady (+3000)
The GOAT is still in the top five of the MVP race, and while it’s impressive that a 43-year-old is even sniffing the upper tier of the NFL, he had a pretty sizable heat check on Sunday night against the Saints. In a primetime game that everyone watched, Brady laid the egg of all eggs, throwing three picks as his Buccaneers were blown out at home, 38-3.
His season-long stats (2,398 yards, 20 TDs, seven INTs) are impressive for any quarterback, let alone a 43-year-old. But optics matter in the MVP race, and he just had back-to-back appearances on national television in which he barely beat the cellar-dwelling Giants and got destroyed by a division rival. As Jackson’s primetime performances boosted him last year, Brady’s may be a dagger.
4. Josh Allen (+2000)
Allen eviscerated the Seahawks on Sunday, completing over 80 percent of his passes for 415 yards and three TDs, adding a score on the ground in the Bills’ 44-34 win. It was his best game of the season and much closer to what he looked like in the first month of the season, when he racked up 1,326 yards and 15 total touchdowns.
If he keeps stringing together performances like he did on Sunday, +2000 will be the longest odds he’ll see this season. The question is, will he? The Seahawks have an atrocious defense, and Allen saw a notable downturn in performance from Weeks 5 through 8, scraping out wins against the Jets and Patriots (who, as we all saw Monday night, are not good teams), and losing convincingly to the Titans and Chiefs in primetime. He was held under 200 yards in two of those games.
Jackson had some early-season stumbles in 2019, so it’s possible Allen could win if he pushes the pedal to the medal for the rest of the season, as he did on Sunday. There’s just a razor-thin margin for error. $10 or $20 might be the highest wager worth risking here.
3. Aaron Rodgers (+350)
Here’s where the candidates get serious. Rodgers is in the midst of a monster campaign, logging 2,253 yards, 24 TDs and only two interceptions through eight games. He is PFF’s top-graded QB through Week 9, and is certainly doing his best to make the Packers regret drafting Jordan Love in the first round.
There are plenty of narrative elements working in his favor. The Packers are 6-2 and in first place in the NFC North despite having the fourth-worst defense in terms of DVOA (Defense-adjusted value over average). At 36 years old, Rodgers is one of the NFL’s elder statesmen, having a late-career surge as Peyton Manning did in 2013, when he won the award at 37. And he has done it with Davante Adams and not much else at receiver (and even had two games without Adams). At 3.5/1, there is some value here.
2. Patrick Mahomes (+210)
Patrick Mahomes is the best player in the NFL, full stop. If the MVP award actually went to the best player in the league, he’d get it every year. There’s more that goes into it, however, and with narrative and year-specific success factoring in, instead of being the favorite, he’s…the second favorite.
But should he be? He’s second in the league in both yards (2,687) and touchdowns (25). He has only thrown one – yes, one – interception. His Chiefs are 8-1 and could sleepwalk to another AFC West title. He did just win the award two years ago, and sometimes voters like to mix it up. But it’s going to be hard to ignore if he keeps putting up these monster numbers. He’s +210 right now, and one would have to think there’s at least a 2-to-1 chance Mahomes walks away with the MVP.
1. Russell Wilson (+120)
Wilson has been the wire-to-wire favorite for this award, and for good reason: he leads the NFL in passing touchdowns and is fourth in yards – and that’s in just eight games, with Mahomes having played nine. He is on a season-long pace to throw for 5,082 yards and a whopping 56 TDs, which would break Peyton Manning’s record of 55.
That said, he has slipped a bit over the past few weeks. He has had at least three turnovers in two of his past three games, both losses. In those games, he exposed his team’s weakness – defense – and the Seahawks may not win games unless he’s close to perfect. Which he has been for large stretches of the season, but team success is important in this award. If the Seahawks slip up and don’t win an extremely tough NFC West, his MVP chances would take a hit, unfairly or not.
All things considered, Wilson is probably still the most likely candidate to take home the hardware. But his lead is slipping, and at practically even odds, there isn’t a ton of value here in the betting market.