2021 NFL MVP Betting Preview: Patrick Mahomes the Preseason Favorite for Third Straight Year

Patrick Mahomes has been the preseason favorite to win MVP each of the past two years. He didn’t capture the hardware either time, but the oddsmakers are not deterred.

The Kansas City Chiefs’ gunslinger has been instituted as the MVP favorite once again for 2021, as his August 2 odds from DraftKings are listed at +500. Those are much more favorable odds than anyone else in the league, and it’s no surprise, as Mahomes is off to arguably the greatest start in NFL history.

He won the MVP in 2018, throwing for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns. In 2019, he missed time with injury but still threw for 4,031 yards with 26 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Last year, he threw for 4,740 yards with 38 touchdowns and six picks despite sitting out the finale.

While his 2020 campaign was stellar, it can be hard to top the whole field for MVP, and Mahomes was upstaged by a renaissance season from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Mahomes finished in third place, while Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen used a breakout campaign to come in second. 

Mahomes is entering his age-26 season, smack in the middle of his physical prime, and still has star pass-catchers Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce at his disposal. The Chiefs made it to the Super Bowl last season but fell short, in large part due to a porous offensive line that was ravaged by injuries.

The Kansas City front office made it a priority to beef up the protection, which should help Mahomes’ efficiency. The Chiefs are the favorites to win the Super Bowl, and that’s important, because a strong team record and MVP votes usually go hand-in-hand. 

Here is a look at the other top contenders for MVP, per DraftKings’ odds on August 2:

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (+1000)

It was a phenomenal campaign for the Packers’ signal-caller in 2020. He finished atop the NFL in completion percentage (70.7), touchdown passes (48) and quarterback rating (121.5). Rodgers had a drama-filled offseason as he requested a trade to a new team, but it wasn’t granted. That’s probably a good thing for his MVP odds, as the Packers have star wideout Davante Adams and a talented offensive line. However, Rodgers will be 38 this season and had some mediocre performances previous to 2020. A repeat MVP campaign would be a pretty big upset.

Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills (+1200)

There was no shortage of skeptics when the Bills chose Allen with the No. 7 overall pick in 2018, and that was only compounded when his first two seasons were below average. Everything changed in 2020, as Allen’s accuracy markedly improved and his comfort level in the Buffalo offense grew. The Bills have a bunch of talent, as the front office has taken advantage of Allen’s affordable rookie contract to stockpile weapons around him. However, Allen has to prove that 2020 was not an outlier season in order to be a legitimate contender for MVP.

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys (+1400)

The Cowboys’ offense got off to a scintillating start in 2020, as Prescott threw for 1,856 yards and nine touchdowns in the first five games, but that ended abruptly when he suffered a season-ending broken ankle injury. While Dallas finished the year 6-10, there is renewed optimism now that Prescott is healthy again. The Cowboys have a high-powered offense and are the favorites to win the NFC East, so it’s an intriguing option.

Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1400)

It’s pretty unbelievable that Brady remains an MVP candidate with his 44th birthday right around the corner, but it’s hard to argue against it. He threw for 4,633 yards with 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last year, and Tampa Bay went on to win the Super Bowl. The entire roster is basically back, including the star receiving trio of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, which should set Brady up for another year of success. Brady has the record for oldest NFL MVP when he won the award in 2017. Can he top himself in 2021?

 

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (+1400)

Wilson has come close to winning the MVP in the past, and should be right in the mix again this season. The Seahawks do have to deal with a tough division, as the 49ers, Rams and Cardinals could all pose significant challenges. Wilson has a star receiving duo in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. If he can lead the Seahawks to the NFC West crown and a top spot in the conference, he should be in the MVP chatter.

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens (+1600)

Jackson won the MVP in 2019, as he broke out in a big way in Year 2. Baltimore was the best regular season team in the NFL that year, but took a slight step back in 2020. Jackson and the Ravens were still good, but not dominant. It’s a crucial year for Jackson to show that he is truly an upper echelon quarterback, and that defenses haven’t figured him out. Jackson’s rushing totals promise to again be spectacular, and if he can throw the ball effectively, another MVP is possible.

Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals (+1600)

The Cardinals got off to a 6-3 start in 2020, and Murray looked like a burgeoning MVP candidate in only his second season. The second half of the year was a big letdown, although a shoulder injury may have contributed to the struggles. Like Jackson, Murray is an elite rushing threat, but must prove he can beat teams with his arm. A.J. Green, Christian Kirk and second-round pick Rondale Moore will need to give star DeAndre Hopkins some help in the playmaking department for Murray’s numbers to look better.

Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams (+1600)

The Rams made a big move to acquire Stafford from the Detroit Lions this offseason. The hope is that he stabilizes the offense after erratic play from Jared Goff the past couple years. Goff was actually an MVP candidate himself before the dip in production, so the offense should be quarterback-friendly for Stafford, if he can take advantage.

Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers (+1800)

Even though the Chargers lost a lot of close games a season ago, Herbert did enough to really get the fanbase excited. Jackson won the MVP in his second season, while Mahomes did so in his third year, so quarterbacks can progress quickly in the NFL. Herbert is still a longshot, but there is definite reason for optimism in Los Angeles.

Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans (+2000)

Watson would undoubtedly be higher on this list, but he faces multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. He reported to training camp with the Texans, but his future with the team is extremely murky. It’s unclear if Watson will play this season, with the Texans or someone else, and his MVP odds reflect it.

The Running Backs

The non-quarterback with the highest MVP odds is Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, who checks in at +4000. He was injured most of 2020, but compiled 1,387 rushing yards and 1,005 receiving yards in 2019. McCaffrey did not get an MVP vote that season, and a running back hasn’t won the award since 2012, when Adrian Peterson did so.

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry has +5000 odds to win MVP. He rushed for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns at 5.4 yards per attempt last season, but it wasn’t enough to garner a first-place vote. It’s hard to imagine Henry duplicating that type of production, let alone winning MVP.

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