While NFL teams compete for the playoffs and Super Bowl, the most prestigious individual award each season is the Most Valuable Player (MVP). The definition of “valuable” varies by the voter, but usually, this award goes to the most impressive quarterback, the most important position, each year.
Adrian Peterson (2012) is the only non-quarterback to win MVP since 2007, and with a nod to Dalvin Cook, that trend should continue this year as six quarterbacks lead the way in MVP odds on most NFL betting sites.
With respect to the amazing comeback engineered by Kyler Murray against Buffalo on Sunday, he is only fourth in MVP odds (+700) at Bovada right now. At just over the midway point of the 2020 season, this race looks to be coming down to three quarterbacks. We will go over the MVP case for and against each player, and then choose the best bet on the winner.
The Case of Russell Wilson (+185)
One of the stories coming into 2020 was that Russell Wilson has never received a single vote for MVP. With that chip on his shoulder, along with an offense willing to “let him cook” on early downs, and the emergence of stud wideout D.K. Metcalf, Wilson came out on fire this season. He threw 26 touchdowns to six interceptions as Seattle started 6-1 with only an overtime loss in Arizona despite a historically poor pass defense and marginal rushing attack.
If the MVP award was decided after Week 8, Wilson would have won it in a landslide. However, much like in 2019, the second half of the season is playing out differently. Last year, Wilson was the front-runner through nine games after he threw 22 touchdowns to one pick. But in the final seven games, he threw nine touchdowns and four interceptions, and Seattle lost three of its last four games. Meanwhile, Lamar Jackson surged, and the Ravens did not lose again until the playoffs, so he rightfully won MVP unanimously.
The reason Wilson never gets a vote is that he never sustains his high level of play over a whole season like most quarterbacks do in MVP seasons. Wilson’s “MVP runs” come in seven-to-nine game spurts, much like the end of 2015 or beginning of 2019. Meanwhile, someone else was always more deserving over the course of 16 games.
This season looks to be more of the same. In losses to the Bills and Rams the last two weeks, Wilson threw two touchdowns and had seven turnovers. Also, despite the success on early downs, Wilson has been terrible on third down this season. He is only converting 38.1% of his third downs, compared to 52.1% for Patrick Mahomes and 47.9% for Aaron Rodgers.
The Case of Patrick Mahomes (+200)
Despite having a bye week, Patrick Mahomes made up ground in the MVP race with his competition having down games. The best argument Mahomes has for MVP is that down games do not exist in his career. Mahomes has virtually never had a bad game in his 45 career starts. Even if you keep him down for three quarters as the Chargers did in Week 2, he finds a way to put up 23 points by the end of the game anyway. Mahomes has led the Chiefs to at least 23 points in 44 of his 45 career games.
Mahomes’ reputation as the best player in the NFL is earned over the last three years, but his 2020 alone is worthy of high praise too. He leads the NFL in QBR and DVOA on the advanced metric sites, which is a common achievement for most MVP seasons. The Chiefs are also averaging over 43 yards per drive on offense, which could be the best mark ever recorded.
Mahomes has thrown 25 touchdowns to one interception, but that interception stat is a bit of a mirage. He has had multiple interceptions dropped this season, so it will be interesting to see if that catches up to him or if he protects the ball better in the final seven games.
There are no weaknesses in Mahomes’ game, but when it comes to the MVP, it could be that voters are already numb to his greatness and looking for ways to build up a new, shiny thing, whether it’s Josh Allen or Kyler Murray (or Lamar Jackson last year). Also, having head coach Andy Reid call the shots, the best tight end in the NFL (Travis Kelce), the amazing speed of Tyreek Hill, and a solid defense, it could be argued that Mahomes has more help than the other candidates.
The Case of Aaron Rodgers (+333)
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is in the hunt for his third MVP and first since 2014. Rodgers has already thrown as many touchdown passes (26) in nine games as he had in all of 2019, his first year with coach Matt LaFleur. Rodgers leads the NFL in passer rating (116.4), has his highest yards per attempt since 2014, and is second in QBR (84.3).
Sunday was not an exceptional game for Rodgers against Jacksonville, but he did throw for 325 yards and a game-winning touchdown pass to Davante Adams, his best skill player. There is little doubt that this has been the best all-around season Rodgers has had since his 2014 MVP campaign.
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage for Rodgers’ case is also one of his biggest advantages in compiling gaudy numbers: Green Bay’s soft schedule. Rodgers will have to convince voters that his prime-time dominance over Atlanta’s hapless defense or the injury-riddled 49ers outweighs the 38-10 loss in Tampa Bay, a major NFC contender when he had one of the worst games of his career. Rodgers threw two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown and the other to the 2-yard line, and only melted down from there. It is the only game this season where he was sacked more than once.
Mahomes and Wilson have lost four games by a combined 28 points while Rodgers has that 38-10 eyesore on his resume. Fortunately, Rodgers draws a good challenge in Indianapolis this week and still has two games left with Chicago’s defense. But unless Green Bay runs the table again, it could be hard for Rodgers to convince enough voters he was the best quarterback this year.
And the Award Goes To…
Wilson is still the odds-on favorite for MVP, but his campaign is trending the wrong way. Statistically, he now has the worst argument of the three as he’s fallen well behind in the advanced metrics. Wilson has more interceptions and sacks than Rodgers and Mahomes combined. He also plays in the toughest division, which could bolster his resume, but it could also lead to him being on a Wild Card team again.
I keep coming back to the way Mahomes never has bad games. He has already shined in primetime on the road against Baltimore and Buffalo. The Chiefs have four road games left against teams currently in position for the playoffs (Raiders, Buccaneers, Dolphins, and Saints). If he keeps delivering and the Chiefs finish 14-2 or 15-1 against this schedule, then it does not seem possible for Rodgers or anyone to overtake Mahomes for MVP.
While things are close right now, the best bet is to go with the player most likely to keep delivering week after week. That is clearly the 2018 MVP and 2019 Super Bowl MVP.