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The last three MVP award winners were all big underdogs.
While we knew Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Aaron Rodgers, their preseason odds were long before their respective MVP seasons started. There are always good values on the board for the NFL player awards. It's just finding which players will win. That's the hard part.
Yahoo Sports' Frank Schwab and Scott Pianowski already broke down the season win totals in the AFC, and then the same in the NFC, and now it's time to find some NFL awards bets, with all odds from BetMGM:
Who's your best bet for MVP?
FS: I still believe Patrick Mahomes at +600 is great value. He's the safest bet to be in the conversation at the end of the season. But I am going to have a Josh Allen at +1400 too. If the Buffalo Bills play as fast as they showed at times in the preseason, when no-huddle shotgun was their base offense, we might be underestimating Allen's ability to break records. Mahomes is a better player, but Allen isn't far behind and if he's going to throw it 40 times a game on a very good Bills team, he could put up insane numbers in a 17-game season.
SP: I can’t find anything wrong with your Mahomes or Allen angles. Mahomes is the best player in the league by a considerable margin, while Allen is a legitimate star — coming off last year’s No. 2 finish in the voting — and the Bills want to throw the pedal to the medal. (How I beg the NFL to let voters use a 1-2-3 or 1-2-3-4-5 ballot, so we can have descriptive MVP voting results which provide a snapshot of the season. MLB voting is cool because of this, especially for historians like us. The full MVP voting does not give us the same easter egg, since it’s just a one-and-done voting structure.)
We know wideouts can’t win this award (Jerry Rice, robbed in 1987) and it’s almost impossible for defensive players. A running back is a long shot. And you better be on a winning team, because narrative so often drives the results. (That’s how Peyton Manning stole the MVP from Drew Brees in 2009. Of course, Brees had the last laugh.)
I could see Tom Brady cashing at 14-1, the last great season narrative. The Buccaneers brought everyone back on both sides of the ball, and if Antonio Brown can stay on the reservation for the season, this team is going to smash people. Brady might need to sub in a dominant record in place of monster stats — Tampa Bay won’t have to throw it 650 times — but a rating title and a 14-3 type of record could go a long way.
We’ve been waiting for Matthew Stafford to land in a good relationship. He finally has it. The Rams have a genius play caller, dynamic wideouts, and even a hole in the backfield. The NFC West will put up a much stronger fight than Brady’s NFC South will, but I can see an opening for him at +2000.
Russell Wilson, famously, has never received an MVP vote. But Brian Schottenheimer is mercifully gone, and maybe D.K. Metcalf is ready to throw a Moss-lite type of season at the world. He's interesting at +2000. If Wilson were in the MVP mix come voting time, I could see him winning in a “lifetime achievement award” sort of way. Meanwhile, a Mahomes type will have to deal with some MVP fatigue, like Mike Trout so often does.
Is there a long shot pick for MVP?
FS: As you alluded to, I eliminate all non-QBs when handicapping MVP. It has become practically impossible for a non-QB to get the voters' attention. It also has to be a QB on a playoff team. The one name that stands out way down the line is Tua Tagovailoa. There are reasons to believe he'll have a nice rebound in his second season and the Dolphins should be playoff contenders. It's hard to find any candidate at long odds with a great case. Tagovailoa at 50-to-1 is probably it for me.
SP: If Baker Mayfield were an eyelash longer odds (he's +3500), I'd consider him for a long shot ticket. The Browns can win the AFC North. They finally have the coach right, and that was a gigantic hurdle for so long. Mayfield is unlikely to be the driver of this team's success, but if they wind up being a 1 or 2 seed and he's an efficiency darling, the narrative will drive votes.
Who do you like for offensive rookie of the year?
FS: What a great race. While I'd love to talk about Najee Harris, Ja'Marr Chase or Kyle Pitts, as stated before I think it's a waste to put money on a non-QB to win an award. So we're down to five. It's square and chalky, but I still prefer Trevor Lawrence. He didn't start the preseason well but he'll be just fine. The +350 odds don't scare me off. I will add that I think Zach Wilson at +900 might be worth a play too. But you can make a case for any of the five.
SP: Although quarterbacks dominate awards, don't discount Najee Harris from the ROY discussion at his +1000 odds. The Steelers want to run him into the ground, and the voting media loves to latch onto a Jerome Bettis type of player. If I need to go longer, Mac Jones looks set up to succeed in New England. Don't throw money after Trey Lance; the Niners don't need to rush him into the chair, and can do just fine with Jimmy Garoppolo.
Is there a defensive player of the year bet you like?
FS: I don't feel strongly about any of them, but I'll take some Chase Young at +900. Washington is going to have a great defense, he already has a lot of buzz and we all saw he can play. If we're looking for a long shot, Darius Leonard at 50-to-1 is intriguing.
SP: You stole Chase Young from me and I'm not going to diverge. WFT should be the NFC East favorite. Young not only has the skill and the physical talent to be a dominant player, he has the work ethic, intelligence, and drive to get there. I could see the Football Team (never change this name, please) clinching before the new year.
Any other award bets?
FS: I'm being stubborn on the Indianapolis Colts even though I didn't like practically anything that happened to them in August. I'll still take Frank Reich for coach of the year at +2500. If the Colts are good and Carson Wentz plays well, the narrative — and coach of the year is entirely based on narratives and incorrect preseason picks — will be strong.
SP: If we like Allen for an MVP push, Sean McDermott makes sense as a Coach of the Year ticket. The Bills would likely need to secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC (doable), and we'd need no major surprise team to emerge - if some sad-sack club stumbles into 10 wins, that coach will become a voting darling, even if the improvement seems somewhat independent of him. Kevin Stefanski probably can't win again, he won last year. (For fun, name the three current coaches who have won this award more than once.) I wish the Brandon Staley odds were a little longer; I will be betting on Charger stuff, I just have to figure out what Charger stuff.