The NFL MVP has become an award for quarterbacks, as former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is the only non-quarterback to win the MVP since 2007. That’s why this MVP-specific awards article digs into all 32 quarterback situations heading into the 2021 season, as well as two running backs that have abnormally high MVP odds. If you’re considering an MVP bet, keep these factors in mind:
— Not only have 10 quarterbacks won the MVP since 2010, all of those quarterbacks were on teams that had a first-round bye.
— Eight of those 10 quarterbacks had the No. 1 seed in their conference.
— Matt Ryan is the only MVP-winning quarterback to win less than 12 games since 2010.
— Running back Adrian Peterson, the only non-quarterback MVP winner over that span, breached 2,000 yards rushing for the 10-win, sixth-seeded Vikings in 2012. So, every MVP since 2010 has played for a playoff team.
— Along with team success and playing the quarterback position, passing touchdowns have been the next-most consistent factor for NFL MVPs since 2010, as no MVP-winning quarterback has finished worse than third during this span.
— Both rating and QBR have also been consistent indicators since 2010, as Cam Newton’s 2015 MVP campaign was the lone instance where an MVP-winning quarterback did not finish third or better in both categories during this span.
— Similarly, EPA has also been a consistent indicator during this span, with Newton’s 2015 season and Tom Brady’s 2010 MVP campaign being the only instances where the MVP-winning quarterback did not finish third or better in EPA.
— Standard numbers such as passing yards, completion percentage, interception percentage, or rushing yards have not been consistent factors for recent MVP winners.
— Six of the last 11 MVP winners were long shots, while the other five were among the projected favorites to win the award.
— Peyton Manning (5), Tom Brady (3), Aaron Rodgers (3) have all won multiple MVPs and could truly be considered the three greatest quarterbacks of all time.
— Tom Brady is the only MVP winner since 2010 that was not taken in the first round.
— Each of the last three MVP winners could easily be classified as elite play extenders (Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes) or as a historic run-reliant quarterback (Lamar Jackson).
— Each of the four quarterbacks that truly contended for the MVP last season (Rodgers, Mahomes, Russell Wilson and Josh Allen) are all play extenders with above-average ability as a rushing threat.
While one could certainly argue that high-end quarterback production is often the driving force behind the best teams in the league, a simple way to start breaking down MVP decisions is by asking these two questions: Can this quarterback’s team have the best record in their conference, and can this quarterback lead the league in total touchdowns? If you can answer yes to both, or even yes to one and maybe to the other, that player is worth digging into more. This particular article will primarily focus on quarterbacks’ situations and their early schedule.
The Consensus Favorites
Patrick Mahomes (+600 MGM vs +550 Fox vs +500 DK, FD, PB)
Chiefs Current Win Total: 12.5
Chiefs First Four Games: vs Browns, at Ravens (Sunday Night), vs Rams, at Eagles
The case for a Mahomes MVP bet is easy to make as he’s currently the perennial favorite to win this award, backed by a highly talented offensive roster as well as one of the greatest offensive minds in history in head coach Andy Reid. Now that Kansas City has addressed their offensive tackle issues by trading for Ravens stud Orlando Brown, the downside on a Mahomes MVP bet is regulated to a thinner pass-catching group with the departure of the often-injured Sammy Watkins and that Travis Kelce will turn 32 years old this October. While Kelce will eventually begin to decline, Mahomes is going to be a factor in this race unless he misses time.
On the schedule front the Chiefs start out pretty tough with the Browns on opening day before a trip to Baltimore for Sunday Night Football in Week 2. Similar to last year in Week 3’s Chiefs vs Ravens matchup, the winner of Mahomes vs Lamar Jackson is going to see a significant bump in the early MVP race. If you think the Chiefs might lose one or both of those games, Mahomes could reasonably be cheaper entering Week 3 than he is right now. Beyond those first two games, a Week 5 primetime game against the Bills in Kansas City is the next clearest challenge. After that, if Aaron Rodgers stays in Green Bay the Chiefs will draw his Packers at home in Week 9, while getting Rodgers twice if he ends up being dealt to Denver or Las Vegas. If Rodgers ended up in Denver, the Broncos would have a real shot at knocking off the Chiefs twice.
Aaron Rodgers (+800 MGM, Fox, PB vs +900 DK and FD)
Packers Current Win Total: Off the Board (Was 10.5 before the Draft Day news broke)
Packers First Four Games: at Saints, vs Lions (Monday Night), at 49ers (Sunday Night), vs Steelers
What Rodgers did last year with the supporting cast that he has in Green Bay is remarkable, and that’s a big reason why we don’t know where he’s going to play this season, if he does at all. Rodgers has elevated his supporting cast his entire career, and losing to competent quarterbacks with significantly better rosters has clearly gotten old for the future Hall of Famer. If Rodgers stays in Green Bay, an MVP bet on Rodgers is a bet on the 37-year-old signal caller to blow expectations out of the water again after the Packers lost high-end center Corey Linsley to the Chargers and their front office once again failed to add any kind of significant pass catcher (no, I don’t consider third-round pick Amari Rodgers an MVP award needle mover).
On the schedule front Green Bay starts off with a winnable road matchup in New Orleans against a Saints defense that lost multiple starters. In Week 2 Green Bay gets the Lions at home on Monday Night in what could be a showcase game of sorts where Rodgers will have an opportunity to carve up a bottom-tier defense. Week 3’s road matchup against the 49ers on Sunday Night Football is another opportunity for Rodgers to put on a show in front of a national audience, though Rodgers truly struggled both times he faced San Francisco in 2019 during their Super Bowl run/when their defense was healthy. Week 4 vs the Steelers is a matchup against a good defense that could give the Packers’ offensive line some serious trouble.
Josh Allen (+1300 Fox vs +1200 PB and MGM vs +1100 DK and Fox):
Bills Current Win Total: 11
Bills Early Schedule: vs Steelers, at Dolphins, vs Washington, vs Texans
I’m likely a little lower than consensus on Allen’s current place in the NFL’s active quarterback hierarchy. Regardless of that detail, Allen is a talented, dual-threat quarterback that has benefited from strong coaching and an excellent roster. Absolutely nothing has changed about those factors, which creates a realistic path for Allen to pick up where he left off in 2020 as he jumped the idle Patrick Mahomes in the MVP race after Week 17 behind a very strong multi-week run to finish the regular season.
On the schedule front Buffalo beat the Steelers late last year in more of a defensive contest, which could easily be how this year’s opening day matchup plays out. I’d lean towards Week 2’s trip to Miami being a loss for Buffalo in the sweltering heat against a Dolphins roster that continues to get better and is potentially still displeased about the Bills’ Week 17 thrashing of the Dolphins to end last season. Week 3 vs Washington largely boils down to Buffalo’s ability to manage Washington’s front four. Week 4’s matchup with the Texans should be a layup if Deshaun Watson is unavailable. For a team like Buffalo, they could realistically win all four of these games to start the season.
Lamar Jackson (+1700 FD and Fox vs +1600 DK and PB vs +1400 MGM)
Ravens Current Win Total: 10.5
Ravens Early Schedule: at Raiders (Monday Night), vs Chiefs (Sunday Night), at Lions, at Broncos
Baltimore is among the most consistent organizations in the sport and we already know that Lamar can win this award because he already has. While losing right tackle Orlando Brown is a notable loss, the Ravens improved at right guard by bringing in former Brown and Giant Kevin Zeitler while significantly upgrading their wide receiver group with the signing of Sammy Watkins while taking Rashod Bateman in the first round. While those are all legitimate positives, I’m considering a Lamar MVP bet at +1700 odds because of their schedule.
The Raiders improved their defense this offseason, but it’s still a unit that could yield major production to Lamar in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football. If the Ravens take care of business against the Raiders, Week 2’s Sunday Night Football matchup with the Chiefs represents an opportunity for Lamar to take the early lead in the MVP race if he can beat Patrick Mahomes. Even if the Ravens lose, if Lamar plays reasonably well his MVP position should remain relatively stable. Week 3 is a potential smash spot in Detroit, with the only downside being if the Ravens take control early they could lean more heavily on their run game. Week 4’s matchup in Denver is a wild card of sorts, as I’d lean towards it playing ugly as things stand now while being a near certain loss if the Broncos imported either Aaron Rodgers or Deshaun Watson.
Long-term the Ravens play in a tough division, but otherwise they draw their most difficult opponents at home in the Packers and Rams late in the season along with the Colts and Chargers in back-to-back weeks in the middle of October. Otherwise, Thursday Night Football in Miami in Week 11 also represents a tough spot outside of their divisional road games. If Baltimore beats who they should and even splits their more difficult games, they could very reasonably exceed their 10.5-game win total. If they are able to accomplish that, Lamar carries this offense.
Tom Brady (+1800 Fox vs +1700 FD vs +1600 MGM and PB vs +1400 DK)
Buccaneers Current Win Total: 11.5
Buccaneers Early Schedule: vs Cowboys (Opening Thursday), vs Falcons, at Rams, at Patriots (Sunday Night)
Coming off yet another Super Bowl win, Brady’s Bucs remarkably return all of their relevant players from their championship run. Brady will turn 44 years old before the season starts, which is really the only negative thing anyone could say about Tampa Bay’s chances of being a contender this year. On the schedule front Brady starts with two potential shootout matchups against the Cowboys and Falcons that could easily lead to him becoming a more expensive MVP bet. He then draws last year’s top-rated defense in the Rams on the road before heading back to New England for one of the season’s most compelling matchups on Sunday Night Football in Week 4. If Brady plays well against his former team in a winning effort in Week 4, he will be very much in the MVP conversation even if the Bucs’ offense bombs against the Rams.
Matthew Stafford (+1800 MGM vs +1600 PB and Fox vs +1500 FD vs +1400 DK)
Rams Current Win Total: 10.5
Rams Early Schedule: vs Bears (Sunday Night), at Colts, vs Buccaneers, vs Cardinals
While head coach Sean McVay is the best offensive strategist Stafford has ever had, just as this is the best team Stafford has ever played on, the Rams do not currently have a supremely talented offense. It’s more so in the middle of the pack on the talent front. The Rams are a good enough football team to contend for the top spot in the NFC, but I have my doubts that they will be a high-powered enough offense for Stafford to reign supreme over all other MVP contenders. With that said, I was surprised to see Stafford’s odds essentially match Tom Brady’s.
Russell Wilson (+2000 MGM, DK, FD vs +1600 PB vs +1500 Fox)
Seahawks Current Win Total: 9.5
Seahawks Early Schedule: at Colts, vs Titans, at Vikings, at 49ers
Wilson is a future Hall of Famer that took the early lead in the MVP race and held it through the first half of the season last year. Similar to last year, Wilson enters this season with the best group of skill position players that he’s ever had, and we know what Russ is capable of. If you’re considering an MVP bet on Russ, the primary question you have to ask yourself is: “Can these Seahawks be the best team in the NFC this year?” As is the case every year since the Legion of Boom days, I lean towards no. In fact, in a lot of ways Russ is in a similar situation as Aaron Rodgers, except Seattle has actually invested some resources in offensive skill players over the years.
Dak Prescott (+2000 MGM vs +1600 DK and PB vs +1500 FD vs +1400 Fox)
Cowboys Current Win Total: 9.5
Cowboys Early Schedule: at Buccaneers (Opening Thursday), at Chargers, vs Eagles, vs Panthers
The Cowboys’ ability to exceed expectations this season has been organically growing on me since our Evan Silva first discussed his Dallas enthusiasm weeks ago. In a best-case scenario, the Cowboys can largely mimic the 2016 Falcons. To that end, Dallas has one of the best skill groups in football and we know that Dak can produce at an MVP-caliber level. As long as Prescott doesn’t have any negative effects from his gruesome ankle injury that ended his 2020 campaign and the Cowboys’ offensive line can stay healthy, this can easily be a top-five offense.
I also like the early schedule, as opening day in Tampa Bay offers an interesting opportunity for Dak in the sense that if he plays poorly, he’s coming off his bad ankle injury and he’s facing off against the defending champs on the road. Meaning a bad performance won’t be a long-term death sentence in a very tough matchup. If he plays well, not to mention if Dallas upsets the Buccaneers, we’re then looking at a coin flip matchup at the Chargers in Week 2 followed by back-to-back home games against the vulnerable secondaries of the Eagles and Panthers — which Dallas could conceivably light up.
Kyler Murray (+2300 FD vs +2000 DK, PB and Fox vs +1400 MGM)
Cardinals Current Win Total: 8
Cardinals Early Schedule: at Titans, vs Vikings, at Jaguars, at Rams
Every year that Murray is entering the season at 100%, he will be a legitimate threat in the MVP race due to his dynamic, dual-threat skill set. His ability to post big numbers in both the air and on the ground in any given week at least borders on being unique, as he can do both consistently. The question that will consistently come with that reality is: “Has Arizona built a contending team around Murray?” The Cardinals’ offseason is a rather strange one for me, as they actually got better but I’m simultaneously not a huge fan of what they did. On the schedule front, those first four games look a lot like a 2-2 start with a chance that Arizona goes 3-1 over that stretch.
Justin Herbert (+3000 MGM vs +2200 Fox vs +2000 DK and FD vs +1800 PB)
Chargers Current Win Total: 9
Chargers Early Schedule: at Washington, vs Cowboys, at Chiefs, vs Raiders (Monday Night)
Herbert is coming off a ridiculous rookie season where he finished in the top 10 in both yards and touchdown passes despite only starting 15 games, while adding another 234 yards and five scores on the ground. Herbert’s QBR was 13th, his rating 12th, and his EPA was fifth which are all encouraging for a rookie, but also each off the pace in terms of what constitutes an MVP-level season in recent years. That means that Herbert will have to improve upon his historic rookie production in his second year, while his Chargers will have to significantly exceed their otherwise solid win total of 9 games for Herbert to truly contend for the MVP.
With that said, Herbert’s early schedule presents numerous opportunities. On opening day, the Chargers’ improved offensive line will be immediately put to the test against what is arguably the league’s best front four in Washington. In Week 2 Herbert gets a high-end shootout partner in the Cowboys at home, before heading to Kansas City in Week 3 in a game that Herbert could gain big ground in the MVP race if he is able to knock off Patrick Mahomes‘ Chiefs. If Herbert can get out of that stretch with a 2-1 record while playing well, he gets a Monday Night showcase against an improved, but still beatable Raiders pass defense.
Baker Mayfield (+4000 MGM vs +3500 Fox vs +3300 DK and PB vs +2900 FD)
Browns Current Win Total: 10.5
Browns Early Schedule: at Chiefs, vs Texans, vs Bears, at Vikings
The Browns’ win total has jumped from 9.5 to 10.5 since the totals article I wrote on April 21. That shift puts the Browns among the top contenders in both conferences, which is probably where they should be at this point given the overall strength of their roster and coaching staff. In terms of their strength of schedule vs opponents win totals, the Browns have the third-easiest schedule. I prefer to look at schedule strength through the lens of how many competitive opponents do they have, which would number 11 for Cleveland if you were to count every team on the Browns’ schedule that has a win total of 8 or more. Two games against the Bengals, one against the Lions and another against the Texans might be somewhat inflating how easy Cleveland’s schedule is in the more traditional opponent win totals format.
Regardless, Cleveland can compete with anyone and Mayfield played very well during the second half of last season. In fact, some of the more exciting games on the schedule last year involved Browns shootouts against the Bengals and Ravens. While I fall a little short of wanting to bet on Mayfield to win the MVP, I would prefer to bet on Mayfield than any other quarterback in this odds range as he is genuinely in a position to compete for the award if the Browns even mildly exceed present expectations.
Ryan Tannehill (+4000 FD vs +3300 DK vs +3000 MGM and Fox vs +2800 PB)
Titans Current Win Total: 9
Titans Early Schedule: vs Cardinals, at Seahawks, vs Colts, at Jets
Tannehill has been really good as a Titan, but does this offense have enough juice for Tannehill to surpass the likes of Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen as high-performing quarterbacks leading AFC contenders? Apart from A.J. Brown, the Titans aren’t exactly brimming with dynamic talent in their pass-catching group. Perhaps the best way to answer that question is to frame each of the Titans’ first three games as relative coinflips in terms of which team wins.
Carson Wentz (+4000 MGM, DK, FD, PB, and Fox)
Colts Current Win Total: 10
Colts Early Schedule: vs Seahawks, vs Rams, at Titans, at Dolphins
Indianapolis’ decision to gamble on Frank Reich’s ability to get Wentz back on track was fair given their situation at the quarterback position, as Wentz has been a high-level quarterback in the past while paired with Reich. That said, the Colts have one of the weakest pass-catching groups in the league and there is a genuine possibility that they could start the season 0-4 given their first four opponents. I understand the 10-game win total for the Colts is a major factor, but Wentz belongs closer to the Kirk Cousins odds range for the MVP race.
Matt Ryan (+5000 MGM vs +4500 Fox vs +4000 FD vs +3300 DK and PB)
Falcons Current Win Total: 7.5
Falcons Early Schedule: vs Eagles, at Buccaneers, at Giants, vs Washington
As pointed out in the mid-April MVP column, a Ryan MVP ticket could be had at 100:1 odds. That has since halved to 50:1, which is in the area Ryan should be. We know Ryan can be productive enough to have an MVP-caliber season; it’s largely a question of can the Falcons be a successful enough team for Ryan to get there.
Tua Tagovailoa (+7000 Fox vs +6600 MGM vs +6000 DK, FD, PB)
Dolphins Current Win Total: 9
Dolphins Early Schedule: at Patriots, vs Bills, at Raiders, vs Colts
Tua is an interesting case because on one hand the Dolphins are a young, improving roster that has already had back-to-back ahead-of-schedule seasons under head coach Brian Flores. Miami specifically improved their pass-catching group with the additions of veteran speedster Will Fuller as well as the addition of sixth overall pick/rookie speedster Jaylen Waddle, which will no doubt benefit Tua who was an exceptional deep ball thrower at Alabama. On the other hand, saying that Tua struggled last year might be a bit of an overstatement, but he certainly didn’t set the world on fire either and was a distant third compared to his fellow first-round rookie quarterbacks Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow. Miami also enters the season with a still questionable offensive line.
With all of that said, you shouldn’t be able to get Tua at 70:1 odds given his college pedigree, Miami’s solid win total of 9 games, and the simple reality that the Dolphins improved their roster heading into this season after winning 10 games last year.
Deshaun Watson (+5000 MGM, DK, FD vs +4000 Fox vs +2500 PB)
Texans Current Win Total: 4.5
Texans Early Schedule: vs Jaguars, at Browns, vs Panthers, at Bills
First, we have no idea if and/or when Watson will play this year. On top of that we don’t know where, as he appeared to be very set on not playing for the Texans again before his off-the-field scandals emerged. If Watson were to go to Denver or Miami without missing time, he would be an absolute steal at 50:1 odds. However, at this point we have no real way of knowing if, when, or where Watson will play football this season. Any kind of MVP bet on Watson right now would be a pure gamble considering the off-field mess that he’s in.
Joe Burrow (+6000 FD and Fox vs +5000 MGM and DK vs +4000 PB)
Current Win Total: 6.5
Early Schedule: vs Vikings, at Bears, at Steelers, vs Jaguars (Thursday Night)
If I could bet on Burrow to win an MVP at some point in his career, I would be interested as Burrow has already proven that he can play at the NFL level and the Bengals have a pretty interesting group of young pass catchers. With that said, Burrow is coming off a season-ending knee injury with multiple ligament tears, Cincinnati still has a questionable offensive line, a mediocre defense and the AFC North is one of the best divisions in football. I look forward to betting on the Bengals’ offense in a variety of isolated ways throughout this season, but I question their ability to win enough games to put Burrow in MVP contention in the short-term.
Kirk Cousins (+6600 MGM vs +5000 DK, Fox, PB vs +4500 FD)
Vikings Current Win Total: 8.5
Vikings Early Schedule: at Bengals, at Cardinals, vs Seahawks, vs Browns
Cousins’ first two road games to start the season are pretty appealing as potential shootouts against opponents with talented offenses and below-average secondaries. Long-term a playoff appearance or even an NFC North crown are genuine possibilities for Minnesota, but beyond that the path to the Vikings being one of the two best teams in the NFC is a bit thin, which is how I’d frame Cousins’ MVP candidacy.
Derek Carr (+7000 DK vs +6000 FD and PB vs +5000 MGM and Fox)
Raiders Current Win Total: 7
Raiders Early Schedule: vs Ravens (Monday Night), at Steelers, vs Dolphins, at Chargers (Monday Night)
Carr is a thin MVP candidate in general, as team success has been a significant factor in the MVP race for many years and the Raiders aren’t built to massively exceed their implied win total. In order to contend, Carr’s Raiders would have to leapfrog at least two superior teams in the Chiefs, Bills, Ravens and Browns in the AFC hierarchy. On top of that, an 0-4 start isn’t out of the question for the Raiders as each of their first four opponents have a higher win total than they do.
Jalen Hurts (+8000 MGM vs +7500 FD vs +7000 Fox vs +5000 DK and PB)
Eagles Current Win Total: 6.5
Eagles Early Schedule: at Falcons, vs 49ers, at Cowboys (Monday Night), vs Chiefs
Hurts is an interesting case as he threw for over 300 yards in two of his three full games last season and he pairs that with dynamic rushing ability. Long-term, Hurts has the dual-threat ability to put up major production and the Eagles have the 10th-easiest schedule this season when using team’s implied win totals as the basis. With that in mind, Hurts can still be had as an 80:1 longshot because starting the season 0-4 isn’t entirely out of the question for this Eagles team with a 6.5 win total. As is the case with most MVP considerations, unless voters start changing how they treat the award, team success is a significant factor in who wins the MVP award. Ultimately, a Hurts MVP bet is also a bet on the Eagles considerably exceeding expectations as a team.
Trevor Lawrence (+9000 FD and PB vs +8000 MGM, DK, and Fox)
Jaguars Current Win Total: 6.5
Jaguars Early Schedule: at Texans, vs Broncos, vs Cardinals, at Bengals
Lawrence has a pretty favorable early schedule to start his career, facing the vulnerable secondaries of the Texans, Cardinals and Bengals within his first four games. Winning the MVP award is going to be a tall order for any rookie quarterback, not to mention one manning a team with a meager 6.5 win total. With that said, there is a reasonable chance that Lawrence could be more expensive than he is now after this four-game stretch.
Daniel Jones (+10000 MGM and DK vs +9000 FD, PB, and Fox)
Giants Current Win Total: 7
Giants Early Schedule: vs Broncos, at Washington (Thursday Night), vs Falcons, at Saints
The Giants’ 2021 season will largely be determined by how well Jones plays. Jones’ skill group has been upgraded by the signing of former Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay, and the first-round selection of shifty Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney brings an interesting dynamic to the offense, particularly as a jet sweep option that opposing defenses will have to account for. But that doesn’t mention that the Giants’ offensive line actually got worse with the departure of veteran guard Kevin Zeitler. Jones is one of those quarterbacks that plays well when he’s clean, while becoming a liability when he’s under consistent duress. The Giants’ brass has put a lot of faith in their young, largely unproven offensive line taking a big collective leap this year. An MVP bet on Jones is a bet on that offensive line improving, as well as a bet on Jason Garrett being able to effectively manage the deep group of pass catchers the Giants now have.
Sam Darnold (+11000 Fox vs +10000 MGM and DK vs +9000 FD and PB)
Panthers Current Win Total: 7.5
Panthers Early Schedule: vs Jets, vs Saints, at Texans (Thursday Night), at Cowboys
A Darnold for MVP bet would certainly be an ambitious one. That said, Darnold’s first game as a Panther is a revenge game against the team that abandoned him. Then Carolina hosts their division rival Saints in Week 2, with New Orleans having lost a number of defensive starters this offseason. From there the Panthers head to Texas for back-to-back indoor games against defenses with suspect secondaries in the Texans and then the Cowboys. If nothing else, Darnold starts his Panthers career with four reasonably appealing opponents.
Jared Goff (+12500 MGM and DK vs +12000 FD vs +11000 Fox vs +9000 PB)
Lions Current Win Total: 5
Lions Early Schedule: vs 49ers, at Packers (Monday Night), vs Ravens, at Bears
The Lions have an uphill battle this year with a roster that has undergone tremendous turnover, that remains filled with holes. While Goff has no competition on the depth chart and he could have some spike games against some of the vulnerable pass defenses on the schedule, the Lions’ first four games are pretty brutal. Long-term, this Lions team lacks the firepower to potentially contend for one of the top spots in the NFC.
Ben Roethlisberger (+15000 MGM vs +11000 Fox vs +10000 DK vs 9000 FD vs 8000 PB)
Steelers Current Win Total: 8.5
Steelers Early Schedule: at Bills, vs Raiders, vs Bengals, at Packers
Big Ben is now a 39-year-old quarterback coming off a 2020 season where he significantly regressed. Dramatically turning that around enough to have an MVP-caliber season this year is unlikely. Still, 150:1 MVP odds on a Steelers quarterback with a Hall-of-Fame pedigree is surprising considering some of Roethlisberger’s competitors with better MVP odds despite being on teams with a lower win total.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (+15000 MGM vs +12500 PB vs +12000 FD vs +10000 DK vs +8500 Fox)
Washington Current Win Total: 8
Washington Early Schedule: vs Chargers, vs Giants (Thursday Night), at Bills, at Falcons
Fitzpatrick is unlikely to be consistent or efficient enough to truly contend for the MVP award. That said, being able to get the starting quarterback of a defending division champion that genuinely improved their roster over the offseason at 150:1 odds is not something that happens very often. Fitzpatrick is an upgrade over the quarterback carousel that Washington won the NFC East with last year. With that said, this is another example of Fitzpatrick being a highly unlikely MVP candidate this year, but he should be universally closer to the Fox Bet number given some of the strengths of Washington’s roster.
Zach Wilson (+20000 MGM and Fox vs 18000 FD vs 15000 DK and PB)
Jets Current Win Total: 6.5
Jets Early Schedule: at Panthers, vs Patriots, at Broncos, vs Titans
For the Jets, the AFC East is suddenly a pretty loaded division. That alone will make climbing to the top of the conference an enormous ask for a young, but improving Jets team. Wilson’s debut against the Panthers is a solid draw against an average-at-best pass defense, but his next two games against the Patriots and Broncos could be hard on the new face of the Jets franchise.
Unresolved Quarterback Situations
Jimmy Garoppolo (Best: +12500 MGM and DK vs Worst: +7500 FD)
Trey Lance (Best: +30000 MGM vs Worst: +10000 DK)
49ers Current Win Total: 10.5
49ers Early Schedule: at Lions, at Eagles, vs Packers (Sunday Night), vs Seahawks
A rookie hasn’t won the NFL MVP since Jim Brown in 1957, so we shouldn’t be betting on rookies to break that streak in the modern era with any regularity. With that said, Lance should not be 300:1 on a well-built 49ers team that has a win total of 10.5 games. Especially since the 49ers open the season in Detroit, who is a soft enough opponent where 49ers decision-makers can seriously consider making Lance the opening day starter if he plays well through August. Now, it could make sense to bring Lance along similar to how Lamar Jackson was in Baltimore or Colin Kaepernick was as a 49er: in sub packages so the rookie gets slowly acclimated to the NFL game while the veteran option, in this case Garoppolo, sees the vast majority of the snaps. Very rarely do I make or suggest “fun” bets, but if Lance ends up being the opening day starter and you have a 300:1 MVP ticket, that could get pretty interesting considering the quality of San Francisco’s roster and coaching staff. Unless Lance were to get hurt, I would not consider betting Garoppolo at this point.
Cam Newton (Best: +6600 MGM and DK vs Worst: +5500 Fox)
Mac Jones (Best: +30000 MGM vs Worst: +1800 FD
Patriots Current Win Total: 9
Patriots Early Schedule: vs Dolphins, at Jets, vs Saints, vs Buccaneers (Sunday Night)
It’s not entirely out of the question that Newton starts the season 3-0 entering Week 4’s marquee matchup as Tom Brady returns to Foxborough. If New England did not draft Jones with the 15th overall pick, I might even take a half-a-unit stab at Newton and the Patriots significantly exceeding expectations. Since they did draft a quarterback, I’m going to stay away from the whole situation.
Jameis Winston (Best: +6600 MGM vs Worst: +4000 Fox)
Taysom Hill (Best: +20000 Fox vs Worst: +9000 PB)
Saints Current Win Total: 9
Saints Early Schedule: vs Packers, at Panthers, at Patriots, vs Giants
We know that Winston can put up numbers, and if he was ever going to become more efficient, sitting in a quarterback room with Drew Brees learning Sean Payton’s offense for a year is going to be his best shot at accomplishing that. With that said, even if Winston wins the job outright, Hill is going to still be involved in some capacity, which, at minimum, will take some scoring opportunities off the table for Winston. I would not view Hill as an MVP candidate even if he won the job outright, simply because of the grind-it-out style of offense the Saints deployed with Hill under center last season.
Andy Dalton (Best: +20000 DK vs Worst: +12000 FD)
Justin Fields (Best: +20000 MGM vs Worst: +10000 DK)
Bears Current Win Total: 7.5
Bears Early Schedule: at Rams (Sunday Night), vs Bengals, at Browns, vs Lions
When I look at this schedule, Fields makes his first start either in Week 2 vs the Bengals or Week 4 vs the Lions unless the Bears have outright decided that Dalton is actually the guy this year. While I wouldn’t bet on him to win the MVP, the early schedule has made me much more interested in Offensive Rookie of the Year bets on both Fields and the 49ers’ Trey Lance.
Drew Lock (Best: +15000 MGM and DK vs Worst: +8000 PB)
Teddy Bridgewater (Best: +15000 MGM, DK, and PB vs Worst: +12000 FD and Fox)
Broncos Current Win Total: 8.5
Broncos Early Schedule: at Giants, at Jaguars, vs Jets, vs Ravens
While I’m bullish on Denver even if they don’t acquire either Aaron Rodgers or Deshaun Watson, an MVP victory for either Lock or Bridgewater would be absolutely shocking. Now, if the Broncos do land either Rodgers or Watson, that becomes a different matter entirely.
Two Running Backs
Note: To be clear, an MVP bet on any non-quarterback is a bet on an outlier outcome. With that said, these two running backs have already shown that they are capable of historic production and their MVP odds are considerably higher than the rest of the skill position players in the league for a reason.
Derrick Henry (Best: +5000 DK and PG vs Worst: +2500 MGM)
Titans Current Win Total: 9
Titans Early Schedule: vs Cardinals, at Seahawks, vs Colts, at Jets
Last year the Big Dog rushed for 2,027 yards, which was the fifth most for a single season in NFL history. To put that in further perspective, Dalvin Cook came in second with 470 fewer yards on the ground than Henry, while Jonathan Taylor came in third with 858 fewer yards rushing than the Big Dog. Heading into this season Henry is the premiere rusher in the league, who has already shown that he’s capable of historic production. One could argue that along with wide receiver A.J. Brown, the Titans’ offense might even be more reliant on Henry given the pass catchers Tennessee lost this offseason. If the Titans make the playoffs behind a similar big year from Henry and there are no historically relevant quarterback performances, Henry would actually have a shot of competing for the MVP in that scenario. With that said, keep in mind that the last decade has been littered with historically relevant quarterback performances from MVP winners.
Christian McCaffrey (Best: +5000 DK and FD vs Worst: +2500 MGM)
Panthers Current Win Total: 7.5
Panthers Early Schedule: vs Jets, vs Saints, at Texans (Thursday Night), at Cowboys
McCaffrey missed most of last season due to injury, but in 2019 he accomplished the rare feat of breaching 1,000 yards as both a runner and as a pass catcher. If the Panthers made the playoffs and McCaffrey pulled off that feat again, he’d at least have a shot at the MVP if this was a sweepingly down year for quarterbacks. The latter part of that scenario is why betting on non-quarterbacks to win the MVP award is quite thin these days.