Here we are in Week 5, and I actually think the eight quarterbacks atop the NFL MVP betting board each have a legitimate shot. That is more than I can recall in recent Octobers. That's because I believe their teams have a potential path to a top-two seed in their respective conferences -- in a league that just seems more wide open than in years past.
Ironically, the one that concerns me the most is the new betting favorite. I still question whether the Cardinals have the coach and defense to survive a tough division and outperform other contenders for a high seed. I say that because 11 of the last 14 MVP winners were quarterbacks from a top-two seed. However, Kyler Murray (+500) is such a unique talent that he could win the honor, even if Arizona just reaches the playoffs.
So who has actual value in a one-way betting market? I am as annoyed as anyone I did not grab Murray's 25/1 price this summer, and he could establish himself as a clear front-runner, much like Shohei Ohtani did for A.L. MVP early in the baseball season. Remember when bettors did not see value at +150 for Ohtani, who just closed in the neighborhood of -4000?
I still think the NFL MVP market is so fickle and dependent on a team's playoff seed that I would not bet Murray at his current price. The only wagers I would consider this week are Patrick Mahomes (+650), Josh Allen (+800) and Dak Prescott (+1000). Full disclosure: I already have tickets on Mahomes (+550) and Allen (+1000) but I understand the allure of all three.
Allen and Mahomes square off Sunday night with Kansas City as a 2.5-point home favorite. If the Bills win, I can see Allen catapulting to become a top-three favorite. And he has a soft schedule ahead. The Chiefs are just one of three remaining Buffalo opponents that currently own a winning record. Buffalo faces New Orleans and Tampa Bay on the road but the Bills just might already be the league's best team.
Prescott has shined in his return from injury and Dallas' defense may not be such a weak link. The Cowboys will travel to New England, Minnesota, Kansas City and New Orleans, but I think 3-1 or 2-2 is possible. They could feast on a poor division and then the MVP might even come down the Week 17 home game against Murray and the Cardinals.
Super Bowl futures
Kansas City Chiefs +550
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +600
Buffalo Bills +800
Los Angeles Rams +1000
Green Bay Packers +1200
Cleveland Browns +1300
Baltimore Ravens +1600
Arizona Cardinals +1600
Dallas Cowboys +1800
Los Angeles Chargers +2000
Remember how I vented about Murray and his 25/1 odds? Forecasting the betting market is as important as making the right choice. Timing is everything. The Chiefs, Bucs and Bills should all be in the mix come January, but those odds do not interest me. For example, Kansas City's +550 price tag translates to a 15.4% chance. Do you think this squad, in a competitive division and with a suspect defense, will win the Super Bowl more than 15.4% of the time? What about Tampa Bay (14.2%) or Buffalo (11.1%)? I just feel like the market is right on them and I'd rather wait to how things unfold with injuries and upsets. Basically, I doubt those are the apex odds.
Green Bay (+1200) still interests me but a brutal stretch from Weeks 8 to 12 gives me pause: at Arizona, at Kansas City, vs. Seattle, at Minnesota and home to the Rams. Aaron Rodgers makes it look so easy and usually finds a way to deliver but we could probably grab longer odds after a November loss or two.
They only showed flashes last night but the Los Angeles Chargers feel like value at 20/1 (4.8%). My apprehension stems from the fact that the next two weeks represent two of their three toughest remaining games. However, a home win over Cleveland and/or a road win over Baltimore could position the Chargers for a high seed and crash their current odds. A home tilt with Kansas City in mid-December still remains but remember, the Chargers already have a win at Arrowhead. The rest of the schedule breaks quite well so I think 20/1 just might be as high as we see with the Chargers, even though their home-field advantage is essentially non-existent. The time is now for a Bolts bet.
Other awards to watch
I know +120 is never fun to bet for a wager that is three months from being graded but it sure looks like an injury is the only thing preventing Derrick Henry from winning a third straight rushing title. He currently has 510 yards and the next-closest is Nick Chubb with 362. He's also a monster bellcow with at least 30 more carries than anyone else - through only four games. At 6'3" and 247 pounds, he is as scary as he is reliable. Henry has only missed two games in his five-plus seasons.
Along the same mundane lines of minimal payout, is anyone besides Dak Prescott realistically going to win Comeback Player of the Year? He's the odds-on favorite at -170 and then Joe Burrow is next at +700. Burrow has been solid but Prescott has been exceptional and Dallas is a -250 favorite to win the NFC East. With likely team success, a high-profile franchise and a strong supporting cast, Prescott is certainly poised to run away with this award. Christian McCaffrey (20/1) entered the season with a shot but he's already been sidelined with an injury. I just don't see Sam Darnold (11/1), Jameis Winston (18/1) or Saquon Barkley (25/1) outshining the quarterback of the playoff-bound Dallas Cowboys.