As the calendar turns to December, the NFL MVP race is usually trimmed to a couple top candidates. Last year, it was Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers separating themselves from the pack. However, this year’s race still feels extremely wide open with a different candidate each week seemingly taking over the role of betting favorite. So how much more shifting will we see between now and the playoffs? It’s time to buy and sell the main candidates.
Tom Brady (+275)
Brady is understandably the favorite, but this is far from a runaway. He leads the NFL with 30 passing touchdowns and is just 11 passing yards behind that category’s leader. He has been so solid, and with an 8-3 record Tampa Bay is contending for the NFC’s top seed. Also, the Bucs have five of their final six games against teams currently with losing records. The other is a home showdown with the Bills, and perhaps that will determine the MVP. I do think Brady is likely to win this award, but I do not recommend a wager at +275.
Aaron Rodgers (+550)
Finally we are seeing the betting market respond to the reigning MVP and even Green Bay in the futures market. It has been slow to react, but a convincing win over the Rams now has the Pack drawing some buzz. Green Bay is 9-3, and if 9-2 Arizona slips up, the Pack could land the one-seed, given their win over the Cardinals. I expect the Packers to win out, but I wouldn’t be shocked with losses at Baltimore, home to Cleveland or home to Minnesota. Given his offseason hoopla and the COVID-19 misrepresentation, Rodgers will probably lose some key votes. I am selling this because voters will find another elite QB.
Josh Allen (+550)
I think this is a live ticket. Allen and the Bills host the NFL’s hottest team on Monday Night Football next week, and I think it’s a good spot for Buffalo to win and cover. Allen then travels to Tampa Bay for an MVP showdown with Brady and the Bucs before visiting the Pats two weeks later. He will have the spotlight and he certainly has the skill. If you believe in the Bills, +550 is good value.
Patrick Mahomes (+800)
How do we feel about the Chiefs? Kansas City has won four straight and has a manageable remaining schedule. The Chiefs can certainly win out, but they’ve also laid some eggs, so how much can we trust them at the Chargers and Bengals? With Buffalo having a tough remaining schedule, Baltimore being shaky and Tennessee without Derrick Henry, the Chiefs might finish with the AFC’s top seed. The +800 is certainly enticing for a guy who can dominate games, but I am still not sold on the Chiefs. It just doesn’t feel right with K.C.
Dak Prescott (+1200)
He is in contention, but it would take a lot for him to land this award. Dallas would need to finish with one of the top two seeds, and that could certainly happen, but can the defense maintain its strong play long enough? Only one of the Cowboys’ remaining six games is against a team currently with a winning record. At 12-1, Prescott is viable but not something I would support.
Kyler Murray (+1200)
He was the betting favorite, but missing three games essentially prevents him from winning the award, particularly because Arizona went 2-1 in those games and Rodgers also outdueled him in a marquee prime time game. I need more than 12-1, but he is electric and Arizona has a good chance to land the NFC’s top seed.
Lamar Jackson (+1400)
This is a tough one. The narrative is there, and Baltimore could land the AFC’s top seed. With home games against the Packers, Rams and Steelers, in addition to road games against Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati, the Ravens have too many landmines for an inconsistent team. If Jackson thrives and leads them to several wins, then maybe that does the trick. I just need more than 14-1 for him right now.
Joe Burrow (+4000)
I cannot blame anyone for a wager at 40-1. Burrow’s numbers are not overwhelming and his 12 interceptions are only one behind the leader, but Cincy has a chance to make a run. Burrow can win over voters with back-to-back home games against the Ravens and Chiefs, in addition to hosting the Chargers this weekend and traveling to Denver and Cleveland. If the Bengals win the competitive AFC North, Burrow could conceivably be the MVP. It’s not all that far-fetched.
Derek Carr (+7500)
I do not anticipate this ticket cashing, but 75-1 has my interest. Carr leads the NFL in passing and could gain steam if the Raiders make a legitimate playoff run and perhaps win the AFC West. It’s unlikely because they are so inconsistent, but it’s doable. Perhaps the narrative of a roller-coaster season strengthens his chances, but it would take quite a bit of things to break their way. I am not biting, but I at least thought about it.
Other awards to watch
The Indianapolis Colts blew a double-digit lead Sunday, but I still believe in them. At 25-1 odds, Indy is worth a play to win the AFC. The defense is top notch and the offense is capable. It would be a difficult run, given they are currently out of the playoffs with a 6-6 record, but the AFC is wide open. At 25-1 to reach the postseason and win three playoff games? Sign me up.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase is now +230 to win Offensive Rookie of the Year and New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones is the favorite at -300. That feels off. Unlike the MVP, this award is not earmarked for quarterbacks. Chase is regarded as one of the league’s top wide receivers, and his stats are pretty impressive. If the Pats falter, then Chase will emerge. Also, even if the Pats continue this current run, Bill Belichick and the defense will command most of the credit. Jones has weak road numbers, and I do see a path for Chase.
NFL rushing TD leader
Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is -150 to lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns. He is the current overall leader with 14, and James Connor has 12 with one more game than Taylor left on his schedule. Given their offenses, I think Taylor is a strong play. He still gets to face the Texans, Jaguars and Raiders. Connor faces the Bears, Colts, Rams, Cowboys and Seahawks. None of those defenses are pushovers, and I just trust Indy’s commitment to its running back more than I do Arizona’s.
Super Bowl odds
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +525
Kansas City Chiefs +700
Green Bay Packers +750
Buffalo Bills +800
Arizona Cardinals +900
Baltimore Ravens +1100
New England Patriots +1100
Los Angeles Rams +1200
Dallas Cowboys +1300
Tennessee Titans +2500