NFL MVP Odds with Expert Betting Predictions
Here's a little behind the scenes talk for a minute. At the end of each week, I look ahead to the next week and suggest a list of articles that I would be interested in writing. I try to pick things that are interesting, relevant, and of interest to our audience. The challenge, though, is that you are making suggestions before the weekend's games have been played, so you are left to guess what might happen. A single game can change a whole lot - especially in football. So, sometimes I make a suggestion to write something on Friday, and it has changed a lot by Monday or Tuesday.
And that is certainly the case here when I suggested on Friday that I could write about the NFL MVP race. Back then it felt like it was a two-horse race. Lamar Jackson was favored at +150, but Russell Wilson was right behind at +175. Beyond that, things thinned out in a hurry - Dak Prescott sat third at +700. So, writing a story about a two-horse race, looking at who they play next, experience factors, and so on would be a nice, simple story.
But then Monday night happened. Jackson completed only 15 passes, which isn't a whole lot in this league. But he attempted only 20, and five of the 15 found the endzone. Five! And as if that wasn't enough, he ran it eight times for 95 yards as well. It was a stunningly impressive performance, and it happened on the road against a Rams team that had absolutely no answers. Prescott had a lousy game, throwing just one pick and no touchdowns in a rough loss to the Patriots. And while Wilson led his squad to a road win in Philadelphia, which is never easy, his numbers were very pedestrian. Suddenly, a two-and-a-half-horse race has turned - in the eyes of the oddsmakers and the betting public - into a coronation. Jackson shifted in a massive way from a +150 mild favorite to a -300 overwhelming one. Wilson's potential payoff doubled to +350. And Prescott shot way up to +2000.
We could spend time looking at the relative merits of the three guys and any others behind them who are interesting as well. But at this point a more interesting thing to do is to look at Jackson's campaign from a few different angles:
1. Things can change in a serious hurry. The Ravens still have five games left to play. That is just shy of a third of the season. A lifetime, really. Five weeks ago, Jackson was at +1000 in this race, which had him in a three-way tie for fourth. Just two weeks before that, he was at a season-high +5000. People who bet on him at that time are feeling pretty smart right now. Things have shifted mightily in this race, and they could shift again. He made a huge leap with a freakish performance this week, but he could crash back to earth with a poor performance - like Aaron Rodgers and other major contenders have at some point. If you think that the race is over with five games left, then welcome to the world of the NFL, because you have obviously never watched the sport before. I'm not saying that he is absolutely going to lose. It's just that he certainly could and that his chances of losing are probably quite a bit better than the odds would suggest. That makes it tough to argue that there is any value here.
2. The schedule ain't easy. The first chance Jackson has to make a statement - or crash down to earth - is this week against San Francisco in what is easily the game of the year so far. These two teams have met in a Super Bowl in recent memory and could easily do so again. That's a home game, but then they head to the Bills, who have already locked up at least a .500 season. The Jets aren't any good really, but they are in a groove right now, scoring a whole lot more than they have allowed. If they can keep it up for a couple more weeks, it can be a test. Then they travel to a Browns team that is tough to figure out, and then they close out against a Steelers team that is still playing tough despite all of their issues and which always gets up for the Ravens. Jackson will have plenty more chances to make big statements. And aside from perhaps the Jets, he doesn't play any real cupcakes. But he also has a real chance to flop, because these are respectable opponents. An off game against San Francisco would hurt a whole lot more than the other games, but Jackson could probably weather one rough game given his lead and his stats. But that's about it, and this schedule could be easier.
3. He's not a receiver.
I don't want to climb up on a high horse and say that I knew all along that
Jackson was going to be this good. No one did. But his success is a clear
reminder that we need to have a more open mind about players than this
league often does. Jackson won a Heisman playing on a pro-style offense. He
could have won a second. He's an athletic freak who handles pressure with
grace, yet he fell down the draft board. Then it took a while to get his
break last year and a while to earn respect in this race this year. If you
don't think that Jackson is an MVP-caliber player, and will be for years to
come, then you need to look in the mirror - because it's not about him.
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