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If you followed Ben Gretch on OddsChecker last year you know how sharp his picks are. Following a 47-39-1 showing ATS last season, Ben is back to kick this season off with his NFL MVP predictions for 2021.

NFL MVP Predictions: Can A +20000 Long Shot Win 2021 NFL MVP?

The NFL MVP market is one of the most fun to follow all season long, and we know there will be twists and turns before we crown a winner. Last season, Russell Wilson looked like the favorite in the early going, but he faded in the season’s second half. Patrick Mahomes was always around the top of the board, and so was breakout sensation Josh Allen in the new-look Bills offense.

But it was old vet Aaron Rodgers coming on strong late in the year to win the award, closing the season with a completion percentage over 75% and a 19:1 TD:INT ratio across the season’s final six games.

Rodgers looked a lot like many recent MVP winners in a few key ways. First of all, he’s a quarterback. Secondly, his team overperformed modest expectations, going well over their win total of 8.5 from the preseason to finish with a 13-3 record. Interestingly, five of the past six MVP winners have come from teams who had a preseason over/under under 9. But that’s just one of several key elements to an MVP’s profile. Let’s break down a few more key notes from past MVP winners to come up with some loose “rules” for what we’re looking for. For reference, there are 50 MVP votes each season.

  • 13 of the past 14 MVP winners have been quarterbacks. The lone exception was Adrian Peterson in 2012, after rushing for 2,000 yards. Derrick Henry rushed for 2,000 yards in 2020 and didn’t receive a single vote.
  • 10 of the past 12 non-MVP winners who received at least one vote for the award were quarterbacks. The two exceptions were Ezekiel Elliott in 2016 and Todd Gurley in 2017, neither of whom earned double-digit votes.

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NFL MVP Rule 1: We are in all likelihood past the point of no return where this is solely a QB award now.

  • Not since Barry Sanders won a co-MVP with Brett Favre in 1997 has an MVP’s team finished with fewer than 10 wins. Not since
  •  J.J. Watt received 14 votes in 2014 has any player received a vote from a team that finished with fewer than 10 wins.
  • Since Sanders in 1997, 20 of 24 winners’ teams won at least 12 games. Over the past decade, 17 of 20 non-winners who received a vote were on teams that won at least 12 games.

NFL MVP Rule 2: The player’s team will likely win at least 12 games.

  • Not since Marshall Faulk in 2000 has an MVP’s team finished under their preseason win total. The Rams went 10-6 that season against an over/under of 11 wins, per Pro-Football-Reference. Twelve of the past 16 winners have gone over their win total by at least three full wins.
  • Five of the past six winners entered the season with a team over/under of 8.5 wins or lower, but only one had an over/under below 8 (Matt Ryan). All five of those MVPs’ teams went over their totals by at least 3.5 wins.
  • Prior to that stretch, from 2007-2014, seven of eight MVP awards went to either Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, or Tom Brady.
  •  In all seven of those cases, the winner’s team entered the season with an over/under of 9.5 wins or higher, but three of them went over by only 1 or 1.5 wins.
  • Since Kurt Warner in 1999, only one MVP winner (Peterson) was on a team with an over/under below 8.
  • Of the 20 non-winners to receive votes in the past decade, only two were on teams with a win total below 8. Both, like Peterson, were non-QBs (Gurley, Watt).

NFL MVP Rule 3: Winners may not always come from the preseason favorites, but they are unlikely to have had sub-.500 expectations by preseason win over/unders. They are likely to go well over their preseason over/unders, with one possible exception being when they have very high expectations and there isn’t much room to go well over.

  • No player has won an MVP within two seasons of their last MVP since Peyton Manning went back-to-back in 2008 and 2009. Manning did the same in 2003 and 2004, Kurt Warner won in both 1999 and 2001, and Brett Favre won three straight years in 1995, 1996, and 1997, so this appears to be a relatively new phenomenon.

NFL MVP Rule 4: In recent seasons, there may be some voter bias or fatigue against recent winners.

The sum of these rules lays out what we’re looking for. Our MVP is likely to be a quarterback. His team is very likely to go over their win total, and that win total is likely to be at least .500 (in a 17-game season, that means 8.5). None of these factors are particularly ground-breaking, as the market tends to price these things in. But they are important considerations to keep in mind.

In recent seasons, players like Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Patrick Mahomes, and Lamar Jackson were first-time winners whose teams dramatically exceeded expectations that had them looking more like middle-of-the-road contenders than favorites. Prior to that, we had a long stretch where the award was largely dominated by a few elite quarterbacks.

More recently, there may be some bias against recent winners. To the extent that may be the case, the logic would likely be that because there are more high-volume pass offenses in the modern NFL, it is more likely there will be multiple deserving candidates in a given season these days than, say, pre-2010. In that way, it may be more of a tiebreaker where voters have a slight lean toward candidates that haven't been acknowledged recently.

I’d argue Rodgers will have a difficult time repeating unless he’s the clear and obvious favorite. But who are some other good candidates that fit these parameters?

Complete NFL MVP odds here

2021 NFL MVP Predictions

Patrick Mahomes @ +550

Mahomes first won the award in 2018, so it’s been a couple years, but he’s sustained his excellence in that time much like the primes of the players who dominated the award from 2007-2014 — Manning, Brady, and Rodgers.

Mahomes missed some time in 2019, then was third in 2020 voting behind winner Rodgers and runner-up Josh Allen. He starts the season in 2021 as the favorite for the award on a team with a high over/under of 12.5 wins. For him to get there, the Chiefs might need to go 14-3 or better. They are very capable with an improved offensive line and most of their key pieces back, but Mahomes would likely need to be a wire-to-wire star, meaning it’s unlikely his odds would lengthen in-season in a scenario where he then still goes on to win the award. This might be the best price we get.

Dak Prescott @ +1800

A recent Adam Schefter report argued Prescott may not be 100% all season, so that’s certainly concerning. But Dak was on his way to a big 2020 before his leg injury, and the Cowboys’ willingness to pass could certainly put him in position to accumulate numbers.Dallas also plays in what is likely the league’s weakest division, and largely because of that they project to have one of the league’s softest schedules. It’s not too hard to see a scenario where they win 12 games to go well over their win total of 9, and the narrative would certainly be in Dak’s favor if they do so after a tough 2020 season.

Of course, Dak might get off to a slow start if his injuries are at all limiting, so he might be one to watch and see if his odds lengthen. He’d make a particularly interesting in-season bet if the Cowboys get out to a fast start in the W-L department but he hasn’t been making enough noise to see his odds shorten. If he were to pick things up from there and carry them to a great end-of-season finish, he’d be right in the mix for the award.

Matthew Stafford @ +1900

Russell Wilson @ +2000

Kyler Murray @ +2300

I’m pulling three NFC West passers into one note, because they all play in what is probably the toughest division in football. All four NFC West teams have win over/unders of at least 8.5, with three teams reaching double digits. Murray’s Cardinals are the ones lagging behind at 8.5, but he certainly has the young dynamism that could propel him to the award if Arizona were to take down this difficult division. Those odds seem pretty low, though, so he’s a tough bet.

Wilson garnered a lot of attention early last season and a frequent discussion point was that he’d never before received an MVP vote. He closed the season with subpar play by his standards, and will need to turn things around in 2021.And then there’s Stafford, where the narrative writes itself. Coming over from Detroit in the offseason, Stafford has been a hot name in the MVP discussions, as Rams fans hope he’ll pair well with Sean McVay and create a more dynamic offense than Sean McVay could with Jared Goff." .

I’m not placing big bets on any of these three quite yet, because if this division is tough all season, it might be difficult for any one team to stand out. But all three of these quarterbacks certainly fit the bill, and if one of these teams has something like a 12- or 13-win season in this division, you’d expect their signal-caller to be right there in the discussion.

Baker Mayfield @ +3500

The Browns have a 10.5-win total, but because they’ve been more run-dominant on offense, Mayfield might be flying a bit under the radar. Interestingly, though, Cleveland was much more pass-heavy down the stretch last year, and that coincided with the best stretch of Mayfield’s career, even despite Odell Beckham being out.

What if Beckham were to finally stay healthy and return his old form this year? The forward-thinking Browns organization might already be planning to embrace the passing game a bit more this year after the success at the end of 2020, but Mayfield would suddenly have the legitimate playmaking No. 1 WR Cleveland thought they were acquiring two years ago. The Browns have the defense and overall talent to have a big season, and if they were to contend for the AFC’s top playoff seed, Mayfield could be right there.

Tua Tagovailoa @ +8000

We’re getting into the longshots, but we haven’t even gotten to the biggest underdog I’m going to write up. Still, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Tua. The Dolphins have surrounded their young signal-caller with loads of talent including free agent acquisition Will Fuller and No. 6 overall pick Jaylen Waddle, and we’ve probably only just scratched the surface of Tua’s potential after he returned in 2020 from the significant hip injury he suffered in his final college season.

Much like Cleveland, Miami has talent on the defensive side of the ball and have shown to be forward-thinking, so if we’re trying to capture what type of team might take a Bills-sized leap in 2021, it doesn’t hurt to look to the teams that might be willing to embrace the Bills’ focus on tempo and pass-first aggressiveness. Given the way the Dolphins invested at the WR position and ignored RB this offseason, they are a solid bet to be that team.

Ryan Fitzpatrick @ +20000

Alright, alright, I get it. Look, stop laughing and hear me out. Fitzpatrick has garnered the nickname FitzMagic over the past few seasons thanks to a fun persona and an aggressive style on the field that has led to some memorable comebacks. But perhaps lost in that persona is the reality that Fitzpatrick has gotten better with age, which is not an altogether rare phenomenon at the quarterback position. I don’t want to necessarily compare Fitzpatrick to somebody like Kurt Warner, but if you wanted to find the next completely-out-of-nowhere MVP bet, 2021 does give you a decent candidate.

Fitzpatrick is finally in clear charge of his own offense, and it’s a team with a lot of talent. Not only does Washington have Terry McLaurin, they’ve added Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries in free agency, and drafted a very interesting rookie in Dyami Brown out of UNC. Logan Thomas came on as a stable TE last year and they have a duo in the backfield of second-year star Antonio Gibson and pass-catching specialist J.D. McKissic that round out what is at least an above average skill position group. On top of that, they have a very good defense, and they play in the same terrible division as the Cowboys that I referenced earlier.

The way I see it, three things would have to happen for Fitzpatrick to be in consideration. First, Washington would probably need to win 13 or perhaps 14 games. Second, they’d need to be willing to throw a decent amount, so their defense needs to be good but not suffocating in a way that limits the need for FitzMagic. And third, Fitzpatrick would need to cut down on the interceptions. I’m not sure what the odds of all three of those things happening are, but I think it’s quite a bit better than 200/1.

At the very least, backing Fitzpatrick will be a fun ride. I’ve made worse bets.


Patrick Mahomes @ +550

Dak Prescott @ +1800

Matthew Stafford @ +1900

Russell Wilson @ +2000

Kyler Murray @ +2300

Baker Mayfield @ +3500

Tua Tagovailoa @ +8000

Ryan Fitzpatrick @ +20000


PlayerNFL MVP Odds
Patrick Mahomes+550
Aaron Rodgers+1000
Josh Allen+1300
Tom Brady+1400
Lamar Jackson+1700
Dak Prescott+1800
Matthew Stafford+1900
Russell Wilson+2000
Justin Herbert+2200
Kyler Murray+2300

For the full NFL MVP odds for every player, click here

Article Author


Ben knows his football. A fantasy football expert who was most recently seen at CBS Sports, he'll be helping bettors find value ahead in the NFL with OddsChecker.


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