In most cases, I make most of my awards and totals bets within a week of the full schedule being released in May. At that point, I’ll be writing a more extensive column on all viable MVP candidates.
With that said, MGM, DraftKings, and Fox Bet have each released MVP odds. So, in this column I will be focusing on significant pricing edges that can be found between these three sites, any odds that surprised me, as well as my thoughts on a few long shots that I could see becoming more expensive as we head into the season.
There will be an updated version of my “Who Wins and Why” Awards column before the season starts, but here’s a link to last year’s.
SIGNIFICANT PRICE DISPARITIES FOR TOP MVP CONTENDERS
1. Kyler Murray (+2000 on Fox Bet and DraftKings vs +1400 on MGM): Murray, along with Lamar Jackson and maybe Jalen Hurts, has the ability to throw for 4,000-plus yards while breaching 1,000 on the ground. That alone makes Murray a viable MVP candidate every year as he’s capable of amassing historic production while outright carrying an offense. With that said, MVP is, in large part, a team success award that is usually won by quarterbacks that are the centerpiece of their conference’s best team. So, an MVP bet on Murray is also a bet on the Cardinals winning at least 12 games or for awards voters to suddenly start valuing team success less in this process. Arizona is not one of football’s superior rosters and head coach Kliff Kingsbury is starting to look and smell like a fake sharp, so a Murray MVP bet is truly a bet on a quarterback carrying his team well beyond their implied win total of 8.
Rushing quarterbacks are also more likely to take hits, which makes injury risk more likely. While Murray does an excellent job of avoiding contact, his small stature is also something we have to at least account for when it comes to injury risk. Murray missing time due to injury doesn’t concern me as much as the idea of him getting banged up or playing through a lower extremity injury that limits his rushing ability. With that said, I side with MGM here as I wouldn’t be looking to invite extra exposure to Murray MVP positions, simply because of his dynamic skill set.
2. Lamar Jackson (+1700 on Fox Bet vs +1600 DraftKings vs +1400 MGM): Most of what makes Kyler Murray a perennial MVP candidate holds true for Jackson, as both dual threat signal callers are capable of carrying their offense while breaching 1,000 yards on the ground. While Jackson continues to lack a true alpha receiver, the signing of Kevin Zeitler is a clear upgrade at right guard, Jackson already won an MVP in 2019, and his Ravens have a win total of 11 games (second best in the AFC behind only the Chiefs). So, in Jackson we have a quarterback that has already shown he can amass historic production and his Ravens are expected to contend for the top spot in the AFC. With that said, if you are betting on Jackson you are betting on him to carry his offense, as the addition of Sammy Watkins is an upgrade over the off-the-street version of Dez Bryant, but not exactly a true needle mover.
3. Tom Brady (+1800 Fox Bet vs +1600 MGM vs + 1400 DraftKings): Brady is the most successful quarterback in history, which makes his potential MVP candidacy pretty clear to decipher as we are all very aware of how reliable he is. On one hand, Brady is surrounded by an excellent supporting cast, with one of the better coaching staffs in football, and the defending champs are bringing back close to all of the team that won the whole thing last year. So, the Bucs are definitely in contention to be the best team in the NFC. On the downside, the ageless Brady will turn 44 before the season begins and his team isn’t entirely reliant on him to win games. Regardless, it would be no surprise if Brady’s MVP odds increased (got worse/more expensive) as the season draws closer. If I was going to bet on Brady, which I’m not, I wouldn’t care nearly as much about the schedule order for him as I would for most teams and their quarterbacks.
4. Dak Prescott (+2000 MGM vs +1600 DraftKings vs +1400 Fox Bet): If Dak gets through next season with even close to his standard level of production, he’s basically a lock for Comeback Player of the Year coming off his gruesome ankle injury. For MVP, the Cowboys have great skill position players and Dak consistently kills defenses when he’s comfortable. That’s why the state of the Cowboys’ offensive line matters to me far more than Dallas’ exceptional receiver trio, especially with Dak coming off an injury that could realistically require an adjustment period as he returns. That said, Dak is a player that I’d want to see the schedule order before I made any decision on. If Dallas starts easy, I’d be more inclined to throw a bet on him early.
ODDS THAT SURPRISED ME
1. Matthew Stafford (+1800 MGM vs +1600 Fox Bet vs + 1400 DraftKings): I’ve always been a Stafford guy, so I’m truly looking forward to seeing him play with a real head coach in Sean McVay, on a roster that will give Stafford a real shot at reaching the NFC Championship. So, right off the bat Stafford can realistically be the quarterback of the NFC’s best team next year, which is important in the MVP race. Where I balk a little on Stafford’s MVP candidacy is that the Rams’ offense isn’t significantly better than what Stafford had in Detroit last year, apart from coaching. The line Stafford had in Detroit in 2020 is arguably a little better than what the Rams supplied Jared Goff with, and the Rams’ line is reliant on a now 39-year-old left tackle in Andrew Whitworth staying healthy. Further, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee and Cam Akers is at absolute best a draw with Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift from a talent perspective. That’s why I’m surprised Stafford and Tom Brady are currently viewed as equals in the MVP race with Brady coming off a Super Bowl win.
2. Justin Herbert (+3000 MGM vs +2500 DraftKings vs +2200 Fox Bet): Chargers new head coach Brandon Staley might represent a strategic upgrade for Los Angeles simply because he’s not Anthony Lynn. Pair that with a Chargers roster that has a few difference-makers on both sides of the ball, and I think 30:1 odds are fair for Herbert, who was historically good as a rookie last season. With that said, the Chargers are going to have to be better than at least two of the Chiefs, Ravens and Bills for Herbert to win the MVP this season. He’s more of a borderline long shot as MGM has listed him than a borderline favorite as Fox Bet has him.
3. Ryan Tannehill (+3000 MGM and Fox Bet vs +2500 DraftKings): Tannehill has been excellent as a Titan, and he was significantly undervalued for a significant stretch of last year’s MVP race. What caught me by surprise is that the Titans have lost three of their four starting pass catchers from a season ago this offseason, yet Tannehill is a more expensive MVP bet now than he was for most of last year.
INTERESTING LONG SHOTS
1. Matt Ryan (+10000 MGM vs +8000 DraftKings vs +6000 Fox Bet): Similar to last year, I don’t think the Falcons get to 11 or 12 wins, but Ryan has a realistic path to MVP-caliber production given his supporting cast on offense. For me, Ryan should be closer to 50:1 odds as the Falcons are a potential shootout team, that plays their home games indoors, while playing a fourth-place schedule that could help them beat their modest 7-game win total. Again, I don’t think the Falcons will be a successful enough team for Ryan to win this award, but I would rather bet on Ryan at 100:1 than on Dak Prescott coming off a gruesome ankle injury at 20:1 as their overall situations are too similar for that massive of a price disparity.
2. Cam Newton (+6600 MGM vs +5500 Fox Bet vs +5000 DraftKings): Cam struggled after he returned from his Covid 19 diagnosis in early October last season, and struggled is being kind in some cases. That bumpy road last year paired with Newton’s incentive-driven contract and injury history make him a volatile MVP bet. With that said, Cam is a dual threat quarterback that currently tops the depth chart for a Patriots team that heavily invested in improving their pass catching group this offseason while carrying a solid win total of nine games. There’s a possibility that New England acquires some form of legitimate quarterback competition in the draft, but for now Newton is in an improved offensive situation, backed by arguably the greatest football mind of all time in Bill Belichick. I’m not pulling the trigger on Newton at this point, but I will be taking the Patriots’ early schedule into consideration after its release.
3. Jalen Hurts (+8000 MGM vs +7000 Fox Bet vs +6000 DraftKings): The NFC East is wide open, which is why all of their starting quarterbacks are mentioned in this column. That said, I’m not sure the Eagles have a realistic shot at exceeding their 6.5-game win total enough to be the first or second seed in their conference, which has been an unofficial requirement for MVP-winning quarterbacks for many years now. With that in mind, Hurts has the dual threat skill set that could make him productive enough to be in the MVP conversation.
4. Ryan Fitzpatrick (+15000 MGM vs +10000 DraftKings vs +8500): Washington is a very interesting team heading into the 2021 season. On defense they have a truly high-end front four and the signing of CB William Jackson III could significantly improve their secondary, which at least creates a path to Washington having a top-tier pass defense. On offense, Washington has a solid offensive line paired with a young, fast skill group that has a realistic path to exceeding expectations if they can get consistent quarterback play. That’s what makes Fitzpatrick an interesting MVP consideration at 150:1 odds; this Washington team can beat anyone if they get good quarterback play. Fitzpatrick has spent most of the last two years elevating a Miami offense that has less talent than what he now has in Washington. For me, Fitz should be 75:1 or less.
5. Daniel Jones (+10000 DraftKings and MGM vs +9000 Fox Bet): Jones had a few big-time spike games against bad defenses during his 2019 rookie campaign and he is a threat as a runner, but to this point in his career he’s been an inconsistent performer with pressure management and turnover issues. Now, heading into his third season Jones will be surrounded by his best supporting cast to date driven by the return of Saquon Barkley and the addition of a true primary receiver in Kenny Golladay. The Giants’ offensive line is still questionable, but Big Blue improved on both sides of the ball during free agency this offseason, positioning them to at least compete for a playoff spot if Jones is capable of providing stable quarterback play. If you’re a believer in Jones, 100:1 MVP odds could very well be the cheapest he’ll be heading into opening day.
6. Ben Roethlisberger (+15000 MGM, +11000 Fox Bet, +10000 DraftKings): After an 11-0 start last season, the Steelers collapsed down the stretch, ultimately getting embarrassed by the Browns on Wild Card weekend. Big Ben’s decline was a big reason why the Steelers slid so much to close out the year. Likely built on Roethlisberger’s decline last year, the Steelers have a modest 8.5 win total while also losing relevant starters on both sides of the ball. All of those factors point towards the Steelers continuing to trend down heading into the 2021 season. However, 150:1 odds could be the best price to get Big Ben if you’re interested in taking a stab on him to have a big bounce back season. To be clear, I will be staying away from that.
7. Jimmy Garoppolo (+12500 MGM, +10000 DraftKings, +9500 Fox Bet): If the 49ers weren’t slated to take a new quarterback after trading up for the third overall pick in this upcoming draft, Garoppolo would be a value at 125:1 odds given the strength of San Francisco’s coaching staff and roster. Since the plug could be pulled on Garoppolo in favor of the third overall pick at any point this year, betting on Jimmy would not be for the risk adverse. That scenario makes Garoppolo a pass for me.
8. Jameis Winston (+6600 MGM, +6000 DraftKings, +4000 Fox Bet): If I knew Winston was going to absolutely be the guy in New Orleans this year, I’d consider taking a shot at 66:1 odds. Since Taysom Hill is going to be some kind of factor at quarterback for the Saints, I’m going to pass.