NFL MVP Betting: Can Anyone Catch Lamar Jackson?
More than 70 percent of the NFL regular season is behind us, and it’s fair to say that the MVP race is going down to the wire.
I’m not here to tell you why Baker Mayfield or Ezekiel Elliott won’t win the Most Valuable Player award -- that’s pretty self-explanatory. What I will do is look at those who still have a realistic chance of winning it and see if there’s any value to be had in their odds.
The Long Shots
Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders
FanDuel Odds: +20000
Derek Carr leads all quarterbacks -- who have started more than five games -- with a 72.3 completion percentage. Among signal-callers with at least 200 drop backs, Carr is fifth in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back (0.29) and third in Passing Success Rate (52.92%). That’s about it with regard to stats that support his candidacy.
The 28-year-old is just 14th in passing yards, 7th in yards per attempt, 13th in touchdown passes, and 6th in passer rating. His insane completion percentage can be explained by the fact that he has the third-lowest average intended air yards, according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats. In addition, 28 quarterbacks have been sacked more often this season than Carr -- meaning Oakland’s offensive line deserves a ton of credit for his success.
The Raiders still have four road matchups remaining, including bouts with the Chiefs, Chargers, and Broncos. If -- and this is a big if -- Carr can lead the Raiders to a division title and post monster stats in the process, he’d have a slim chance of winning the prestigious award.
Even at +20000, you should think twice before backing Carr.
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
FanDuel Odds: +8000
It’s been a tale of two halves for Tom Brady. Through the first five games of 2019, Brady was on pace to throw for 4,509 yards, 32 touchdowns, and just 6 interceptions. That’s pretty close to MVP numbers according to most people’s standards. In the five games since, the 42-year-old has written a different story. Over that period, his 16-game pace comes out to 4,298 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.
The next three weeks will determine if Brady still has a fighter’s chance of winning the award. The Patriots will square off with the Cowboys, Texans, and Chiefs in their next three games. If Brady can outperform each of the three quarterbacks who have better odds than he does -- and that would require his playing at an ultra-high level -- he’d have a chance of taking of taking home the hardware for the fourth time in his career.
At +8000, he’s worth a flyer to see if he can get himself back into the conversation over the next three weeks.
The Value Picks
Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings
FanDuel Odds: +5000
Kirk Cousins' 2019 campaign got off to a rough start. Through the first four games, Cousins completed 64.65 percent of his passes for 198 yards per game, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. His passer rating was just 88.6. Additionally, the Vikings were just 2-2 through that stretch.
Cousins' seven games since have been historically great. The 31-year-old has completed 73.3 percent of his passes for 288.6 yards per game, 18 touchdowns, and merely 1 interception. Oh, I should mention that his 126.5 passer rating over that time would be the greatest of all-time if expanded out to a full season. Minnesota’s record during those seven games? 6-1.
On the season, Cousins’ Passing NEP per drop back of 0.33 is third in the league, his 8.6 yards per attempt is also third, his 21 touchdown passes are second, and his 114.8 quarterback rating would be ninth-best in NFL history.
Like it or not, Kirk Cousins is a legitimate MVP candidate, and his +5000 odds are probably the best value on the board. If you bet on him, and he continues playing at his current pace, your wallet might just get a lot thicker after the season.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
FanDuel Odds: +3800
Let’s start off with the elephant in the room -- only 1 of the last 12 MVP awards was given to a running back. That alone decreases the odds of either Christian McCaffrey or Dalvin Cook taking home the award.
McCaffrey is on pace to post 2,521 total yards, 6.1 yards per touch, and 23 touchdowns. That’s…a lot. In fact, in his 2012 MVP season, Adrian Peterson put up 2,314 scrimmage yards, 6.0 yards per touch, and 13 touchdowns.
At his position, CMC is fourth with a 0.07 Rushing NEP per carry, fifth with a 0.59 Reception NEP per target, and first with a Total NEP of 56.09.
All that said, what worked for Peterson in 2012 is working against McCaffrey in 2019. Peterson’s Vikings managed to sneak into the playoffs that year with a 10-6 record. Additionally, AP won the award in a year where no one other than Aaron Rodgers (108.0) posted a passer rating of 106 or better. An argument can easily be made that Rodgers -- who led the Packers to an 11-5 record -- deserved the award more than Peterson did.
CMC’s Panthers are sitting at 5-5 and are already 2.5 games back of the final playoff spot. Meanwhile, six different quarterbacks have ratings of 106 or higher.
Even at his current ridiculous pace, it’ll be an uphill battle for McCaffrey to take home the award. If someone wants to take a stab at his +3800 odds, they can so with the hope that all the quarterbacks cancel each other out, and/or some voters have an inclination to vote for someone other than a quarterback.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
FanDuel Odds: +1700
Despite missing two games, Patrick Mahomes is fourth in passing yards and tied for fourth in touchdowns. The 2018 MVP is second in the league with a Passing NEP per drop back of 0.34, has thrown just two interceptions, and has a passer rating of 110.0 -- which is third in the league.
Through his first three games, Mahomes was on pace to post 6,373 yards, 53 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. As we saw last year, Mahomes is one of a few who are able to post those gaudy numbers on a consistent basis.
Given what he is capable of, and the fact that his numbers are still on par with the league-leaders in most categories -- betting on Mahomes at +1700 is not at all unwise.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
FanDuel odds: +1600
Speaking of players capable of going on unreal runs, it would be remiss if we didn’t talk about Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers is currently behind the needed pace in most statistical categories, including passing yards (9th), touchdown passes (11th), and passer rating (10th). However, if he goes on another “Run the Table” tear, the award could be his to lose.
At +1600, you could do worse than bet on the two-time MVP to go superhuman and take home his third.
Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys
FanDuel odds: +1600
It’s weird for someone to be running under the radar despite being super-efficient and leading the league in passing yards -- yet, here we are with Dak Prescott.
Dak also leads the league with a Passing NEP per drop back of 0.37 and a Passing Success Rate of 56.50%. The 26-year-old is also second in the league in touchdown passes (21) and first in yards per attempt (8.8).
Working against Prescott is the fact that the Cowboys are 0-3 in games against teams with a record above .500. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is merely 1-to-1 in those games. Additionally, he has the benefit of playing behind Football Outsiders' top-ranked pass-protecting offensive line.
Unless the Cowboys beat the Patriots in Week 12 -- and he has an MVP-caliber performance in the process -- it will be increasingly difficult for Dak to bring home the award. If you bet on Dak at +1600, you’re essentially also betting on Dallas defeating New England on Sunday.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans
FanDuel Odds: +1400
Prior to his miserable performance against the Ravens in Week 11, Deshaun Watson was one of the betting favorites to be the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Despite that performance, Watson is fourth in the league in completion percentage, eighth in yards per attempt and passing touchdowns, and ninth in passer rating. He’s done all of that despite the fact that he’s the fourth-most sacked quarterback in the league. In addition, he’s fourth at the position in rush yards, third in rushing touchdowns, and fifth in Rushing NEP per carry.
The Houston Texans have vital games against the Colts and Patriots over the next two weeks. If Watson can perform like an MVP in those contests, he should find himself back among the frontrunners. Though, at +1400, there is probably better value to be had elsewhere.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
FanDuel Odds: +160
At +160, the league’s passing touchdown and passer rating leader checks in. Russell Wilson's 23 touchdowns lead the league by two, and his rating of 114.9 would be eighth-best of all time.
Adding fuel to Wilson’s candidacy is the fact that the Seattle Seahawks are 8-2 with some impressive wins to boot.
If Wilson keeps playing like he’s playing, and the Seahawks keep winning, his chances of taking home the award are quite high. That said, there are too many other quality candidates to make +160 odds worth your time or money.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
FanDuel odds: +130
Lamar Jackson is 12th in passing touchdowns and just 19th in passing yards -- those are the only negatives I can possibly write about him.
Jackson has a completion percent above 66 percent and possess the fourth-best passer rating and Passing NEP per drop back in the league. Oh, and I haven’t even touched on his rushing prowess yet.
Jackson leads all quarterbacks with 781 yards rushing and is on pace to shatter the all-time record for rush yards at the position. He’s also on pace to rush for 10 scores.
Lamar’s 0.58 Rushing NEP Per carry is best in the league -- not just at his position… in the league.
This would be a good time to mention that the Ravens have beaten the Seahawks, Texans, and Patriots over their last four games.
Jackson is having an all-time great season, and even at +130, he’s worth a wager.
Dalvin Cook (+3800): Dalvin Cook is on pace to total 2,141 yards and 16 touchdowns. He’s having a great season, but he’s nowhere near McCaffrey in terms of production.
Jimmy Garoppolo (+5000): This is where differentiating between team and player success comes into play. Jimmy Garoppolo has been solid this year, but he’s not an MVP candidate.
Aaron Jones (+10000): Aaron Jones is on pace to post 1,508 total yards and 23 touchdowns. That said, he’s nowhere near CMC either.