All the bye weeks are done, with four games left for all teams in the regular season. Still lots to be decided in the awards market, although some might be close to being wrapped up. Here is our weekly look at the MVP and Super Bowl markets and other awards worth betting on.
We have finally reached the point in the NFL season where the MVP race has been trimmed to an odds-on favorite with only two other realistic challengers. It took us a while to arrive at this juncture, as the roller-coaster ride featured changing leaders on a seemingly weekly basis.
Tom Brady (-180) appears headed toward his fourth MVP, which would place him one behind Peyton Manning for the most all time. However, winning at the age of 44 would provide serious bonus points. The table is set, as the Bucs just outlasted the Bills in overtime this past Sunday. At 10-3, Tampa Bay is tied for the NFC's top seed and now has four remaining games against teams currently with losing records. Brady also leads the league in passing yards and touchdowns.
Aaron Rodgers (+600) is the closest candidate, given Green Bay is also 10-3 and vying for that top spot. The Packers must face Baltimore and Cleveland, in addition to Minnesota and Detroit in their final four games. While that opponent list is more challenging and could provide opportunities for the reigning MVP to make a strong case for another trophy, Rodgers still faces an uphill battle. His handling of the COVID-19 vaccination storyline and offseason drama will likely cost him key votes. It seems a bit silly but I do think that will inhibit his case, in addition to voter fatigue.
Patrick Mahomes (+1000) is still lurking, thanks to Kansas City's six-game winning streak. While the defense has mostly led the way during this run, Mahomes still carries some swagger and could do ridiculous things down the stretch to cement Kansas City as the AFC's top seed. As I have mentioned before, the MVP has been awarded to a QB of a conference's top-two seeds in 11 of the past 14 seasons. Perhaps Mahomes shines and the NFC is mucked up.
Ultimately, you have to ask yourself whether you believe Tampa Bay can lose to the Saints, Panthers or Jets. If so, then perhaps Rodgers or Mahomes could snag it from Brady. But will their teams win out? Will their QB outshine Brady in doing so? Or will voters get frisky and think outside the box with a running back like Jonathan Taylor (30-1)? With Monday's win and stellar play, Matthew Stafford (16-1) might have reentered the race. I doubt it. For me, Brady is the pick and I would support anyone willing to lay the -180.
Super Bowl odds
In a one-way betting market, it's hard to find true value. It's even more difficult this late in the season, given oddsmakers have so many data points to formulate the pricing. However, given the NFC's tight race with three teams currently tied for the one seed, bettors could grab decent odds for a team that might have a much more doable championship path when the postseason arrives.
A team like the Rams (11-1), who just demonstrated their might on Monday Night Football with an impressive win over the Cardinals, reminded everyone of their ceiling and can be had for a double-digit payout. They certainly have all the pieces, and Sean McVay is 54-5 when he leads at any point in the second half. And realize that impressive record was accumulated mostly with Jared Goff as his quarterback. Stafford could be a difference-maker.
The Cowboys (12-1) also offer some intrigue and I believe are worth a play. Dallas' defensive transformation under coordinator Dan Quinn has been nothing short of amazing. This unit was atrocious last season and is now an asset. The Cowboys are 9-4 and unlikely to wind up with the top seed. However, they figure to host a playoff opener. More importantly, their four losses can also be somewhat explained. Losing to Kansas City and Las Vegas without key wide receivers does make some sense. A close loss at Tampa Bay in Week 1 is certainly justifiable and the giant letdown to Denver a week after an emotional road win without Prescott is nothing new. America's Team is in the mix.
The AFC is a mess. I do not think the Patriots (+750) will reach the Super Bowl, as I view their ceiling the lowest of any true contender. Mac Jones has serious limitations and New England is mostly accumulating wins against some average competition. The win in Buffalo was extremely impressive but wind played a major role and thus allowed Bill Belichick to flex. I am very curious to see what happens in the rematch in New England. Perhaps I am a Bills sucker, but Buffalo (14-1) still feels like the AFC's best team.
Super Bowl futures
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +500
Kansas City Chiefs +600
Green Bay Packers +700
New England Patriots +750
Arizona Cardinals +900
Los Angeles Rams +1100
Dallas Cowboys +1200
Buffalo Bills +1500
Tennessee Titans +2000
Los Angeles Chargers +2000
Baltimore Ravens +3000
Other awards to watch
Brady (-200) is poised to win the passing title but Stafford (+600), Herbert (+600) and Derek Carr (+700) are knocking on the door. Brady and the Bucs should win out the rest of the season. However, Brady could lose this race for a couple of reasons. Tampa might get to rest him in Week 18 or the QB could struggle against New Orleans. The Saints limited him last year in all three meetings, although he did pass for 375 yards in the Week 8 meeting this season, but in a loss. To me, Herbert is the play. They rely so heavily on him and two of his final four games come against the Houston and Las Vegas defenses.
The Defensive Player of the Year race has become quite interesting. With another stellar game, rookie Micah Parsons (+300) is now a co-favorite with Myles Garrett. By the way, Parsons is a laughable -6000 favorite for the defensive rookie of the year. As for the main award, give me T.J. Watt (+400). He feels like the biggest difference-maker and his absence literally makes Pittsburgh's defense distinctly worse. I also think his branding and narrative will provide the ultimate edge.