I feel like a broken record, but it warrants mentioning again: Numerous quarterbacks continue to seem like viable NFL MVP candidates, even as we are a third through the regular season.
Uncovering value in a one-way betting market is always difficult, and bettors often need some luck. But most importantly, you need to avoid bad luck, such as Josh Allen slipping on a quarterback sneak in the game’s final minute. The play could have won the game for the Buffalo Bills and strengthened Allen’s campaign. As if bettors needed another reminder just how fragile this racket can be …
So now we have a betting board with reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers somehow with the seventh-shortest odds at 11-1, even though the Green Bay Packers are 5-1 and appear poised for another run at the NFC’s top seed. Lamar Jackson (10-1) is another former MVP who has double-digit odds. The Baltimore Ravens are 5-1, and some feel Jackson is outperforming play from his MVP campaign. That’s how stacked this race is.
Another example is Derrick Henry with 30-1 odds, even though the 6-foot-3, 245-pound star has rushed for at least 113 yards in every game so far and the Tennessee Titans sit in first place. I personally would never bet on a running back, even at these odds, but I could certainly understand if someone did. Only one non-QB has won the MVP in the past 14 years, and that was running back Adrian Peterson with 2,097 yards in 2021. “All Day” also had the bonus of doing it less than one year after tearing an ACL. Narratives do matter.
Matthew Stafford remains an intriguing play for me at 10-1. I think the Los Angeles Rams are part of the conversation for the league’s best team and have a path to the 1-seed. I mention that because a team’s finish will likely play a major role in voting. Not only have nine of the 13 previous QB winners come from a 1- or 2-seed but it could be just be a convenient way for voters to decide between two quarterbacks with comparable statistics. So in such a competitive MVP race, the top seed’s quarterback may have the edge.
Why is betting favorite Kyler Murray being ignored? Well, he’s not; that’s why he’s the betting favorite – and he should be. Arizona is the league’s lone undefeated team and the 24-year-old is among the leaders in all passing categories, and there really doesn’t seem like a clear way to stop him or this offense. The issue is he’s +400 and with so many legitimate candidates, Murray needs better than a 20% chance for one to justify wagering on +400 odds. And it’s fair to assume regression is coming but then again, we’ve had at least one team with at least 13 wins in six straight seasons. With convincing road wins over the Browns, Rams and Titans, Arizona has demonstrated that it belongs.
Super Bowl options
This year’s Super Bowl futures carry a similar narrative as the MVP market, even for a league known for parity. We do not have one dominant team, and I personally feel any of the top eight has just as good of a shot as the others. In fact, I do not believe in the Kansas City Chiefs with the third-shortest odds but they remain alive in their division and thus have a better path than you would initially think. Personally, I still feel their defense is awful, so I cannot justify a +750 wager.
The Dallas Cowboys (13-1) had a miraculous cover on Sunday in New England in a game that featured three touchdowns of at least 35 yards in the final 2:30 of regulation and overtime. They are now 5-1 and running away with the NFC East. Are 13-1 Super Bowl odds worth a play? I would think so because the defense is vastly improved from last year, although Mike McCarthy is constantly confused and routinely makes head-scratching timeout decisions. I do think he will ultimately cost them a playoff game, but 13-1 is attractive enough.
While I downplayed the notion of backing Kyler Murray at +400 for MVP, how can you pass on the Arizona Cardinals at 11-1 to win it all? I was initially skeptical but now I am sold. This team has dominated nearly every opponent (5-1 ATS) and evolved well beyond the perception of a gimmicky offense without a legitimate defense. Believe it or not, the Cardinals actually have a legitimate path to a 14-3 record or better. Before you laugh, do realize that may only be underdogs once — Week 17 at Dallas. They travel to Seattle while Russell Wilson is on injured reserve and their other road games in San Francisco, Chicago and Detroit are all winnable. They host the Texans, Packers, Panthers, Rams, Colts and Seahawks. I firmly believe 8-3 or better is doable and thus 11-1 seems like a price I have to grab.
Super Bowl futures
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +550
Buffalo Bills +550
Kansas City Chiefs+750
Los Angeles Rams +850
Baltimore Ravens +1000
Green Bay Packers +1100
Arizona Cardinals +1100
Dallas Cowboys +1300
Cleveland Browns +2000
Los Angeles Chargers +2000
Tennessee Titans +22200
Other awards to watch
I may never forgive myself. A couple weeks ago, I almost pulled the trigger on Dallas Cowboys CB Trevon Diggs at 20-1 for Defensive Player of the Year. Only two cornerbacks have won this award in the past 26 years, so I felt I needed better odds. Well, through six weeks, he’s now the second favorite at +450. Diggs’ seven interceptions are already more than Stephon Gilmore‘s six picks when he won the award in 2019. The most interceptions we’ve seen this millennium is 10, so setting that mark would certainly benefit his campaign.
While we routinely discuss the MVP betting market, the Offensive Player of the Year is an interesting index bet. Derrick Henry is the betting favorite (+750) at DraftKings. This is actually an award that is not dominated by quarterbacks. In fact, a QB has only won it once in the past four years and four of the past nine. Henry is currently on pace for 2,218 rushing yards, which would set the single-season record. I would definitely fire on +750, given his potential and durability. He’s only missed two total games in his five-plus seasons.
I will write about it for the third straight week. While oddsmakers have adjusted, Dak Prescott still feels like a bargain for Comeback Player of the Year. He is now -300 and I still cannot fathom any scenario where he does not run away with this honor. It would require a serious injury to derail him.
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