With the start of the NFL season right around the corner, C Jackson Cowart, Alex Kolodziej, and Alex Moretto go over their favorite bets for MVP. Included are best bets, value plays, and players to avoid.
CJC: Baker Mayfield is too promising for 12-1 odds. I know, I know, the betting market has already sapped most of the value from his price, but he's still on the precipice of a truly elite season. Pro Football Focus touted him as an MVP breakout candidate this year after he ranked second in "big-time throw" percentage and sixth in accuracy in 2018. He's got the talent, and now he has the weapons to put up unfathomable numbers in Freddie Kitchens' offense.
The other top options are aging, injury-prone, or competing against their own 2018 standards (looking at you, Patrick Mahomes). This already feels like the "Year of Baker," and a gaudy stat line would make it easy for voters to confirm it.
AK: Mayfield's yards-per-attempt numbers under Kitchens are angelic compared to when Hue Jackson was coaching. I hope he throws for 74 touchdowns and that I see every one of them on "NFL RedZone."
That being said, this is Matt Ryan's year. MVP is a quarterback's award and he's the front-runner to lead the league in passing. Steve Sarkisian's departure as offensive coordinator is addition by subtraction and Ryan chucked it in his first stint under Dirk Koetter, now back as OC with Atlanta. Count me firmly on the Falcons bandwagon. At 25-1? Yes, please.
AM: Is Ryan even allowed to do well this year? His flip-flopping between good and bad seasons is almost a science at this point. You're right about it being a quarterback's award, though; only four non-quarterbacks have won MVP since 2000.
But here's a scenario for you. Ezekiel Elliott misses Week 1 while Dak Prescott and the offense stumble through a 16-14 win over the Giants. A flustered Jerry Jones emerges from his ivory tower and hands Zeke a blank check. Finally being paid like the bell cow he is, Zeke lives up to his new deal and finishes the season with 2,200 total yards and 15 touchdowns. The Cowboys go 11-5, successfully defend their NFC East crown, and Jones rides off into the sunset on Zeke's back.
I'll take 50-1 on that all day, thanks. By the way, those four non-quarterback MVPs since 2000? All running backs.
CJC: How about Kirk Cousins at 40-1? He's not a name to excite many MVP bettors, but he's surrounded by elite playmakers in Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, and Dalvin Cook, and he's got the arm talent to drive the Vikings' high-upside offense.
Despite a coordinator change that shifted Minnesota to a run focus late last season, Cousins still put up 4,298 yards and 30 touchdowns with the NFL's second-highest adjusted completion percentage, according to PFF. New offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski has emphasized a commitment to more play-action, which is what originally helped make Cousins the richest QB in NFL history.
If the Vikings are in the hunt for the No. 1 seed, I'm all over Cousins at 40-1.
AK: Did we all of a sudden forget Jared Goff is playing in one of the league's easiest systems on a team that will probably make the postseason again? I understand there are some who think the Rams are in for severe regression, but I have value on Goff at 33-1. I'd put him somewhere between 22-1 and 25-1.
AM: I'm going to stay in the 50-1 ballpark here because it's rather bleak after that - unless you're confident Marcus Mariota is finally going to break out. Spoiler: He isn't.
Give me another workhorse in Alvin Kamara at 50-1. Mark Ingram is gone, Drew Brees is throwing the ball less, and Kamara is ready to shoulder the workload in the Big Easy. Latavius Murray will get his touches, but I see no reason Kamara can't end up with 2,000 combined yards rushing and receiving. I think 50-1 is far too high for one of the most talented players in football and the catalyst of an elite offense.
CJC: The obvious answer here is Mahomes, but he could shock us all again. Instead, I'm skeptical of second-favorite Carson Wentz, who's struggled to stay on the field and looked very un-MVP-like when he did play in 2018.
Wentz was a legitimate MVP candidate in his injury-shortened 2017 campaign, but his stats were buoyed by a high TD percentage that will be hard to duplicate. I also think he benefited from that "Welcome to the Club" bump voters love to award young MVP candidates - the same bump I expect to help Mayfield's case this year.
In his fourth year, Wentz needs to perform at a level too high for me to feel comfortable at 9-1.
AK: I'm happy you said that because I had to fit this in somewhere: I loved Wentz before I looked at his price. At 9-1, I can't pull the trigger.
Philip Rivers, meanwhile, is certainly capable of leading his team to a division crown, but 12-1 is too short. He had a surge in his age-36 season a year ago and still didn't get much love thanks to Brees' and Mahomes' performances. Tyrell Williams is gone, Melvin Gordon is on the back of a milk carton, and I don't feel Rivers' overall ceiling is high enough for an MVP win.
AM: I won't argue with either of you here. The wrong quarterbacks are priced atop this list - aside from Mahomes, of course.
Another overpriced signal-caller is Aaron Rodgers. After running Mike McCarthy out of Cheeseville, Rodgers has already written the introductory chapter of his power struggle with Matt LaFleur, offering some passive-aggressive remarks regarding his new coach's attempts to limit the quarterback's control at the line.
Combine that with the fact that the Packers play in the NFL's toughest division featuring two of the league's best defenses, and I can't imagine backing Rodgers at 12-1 when you consider the names below him.