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NFL analyst and expert Ben Gretch has his latest update for the 2021 NFL MVP award. He's jumped on two quarterbacks that have stood out through the first five weeks.
ANALYSIS

NFL MVP Odds and Picks: Is Lamar Jackson the Best Value Bet To Win the Award?

We’re about a third of the way through the NFL season, and the MVP market is heating up. My preseason MVP picks have been a mixed bag so far, but in that post I wrote up the things we’re looking for from an MVP winner. I set some “rules” based on past trends that would suggest the types of players we should be targeting. Those rules can more or less be summed up as follows: We’re looking for a quarterback on a team that will likely win at least 12 games, and they typically come from teams that were expected to be good but still outperform those expectations.

As the market has condensed around a few candidates, the top names all fit the bill. I wrote about how Patrick Mahomes, having recently won and with a team that had high expectations, may have needed to go 14-3, so it makes sense his odds have lengthened considerably given the Chiefs already have three losses. Now ahead of him are the quarterbacks of the eight teams who entered Week 5 at least 4-1, led by Josh Allen and Kyler Murray with the shortest MVP odds.

I love where both Allen and Murray sit. The Bills look like maybe the best team in football, with a defense that showed in Week 5 against the Chiefs that it is legit. Allen does so much for their offense, that if Buffalo were to take down the top seed in the AFC, it’s a no-brainer that Allen would be among the top finalists for the MVP award.

For Murray, the team strength case might be a little tougher, but the Cardinals have also shown positive signs so far on the defensive side, so there might be more to their 5-0 start than immediately meets the eye. One thing is clear: Murray has taken his game to another level this season, particularly as a passer, and the Cardinals have a leg up in the NFL’s toughest division. If they can hold that all season and win the NFC West, you have to think Murray would be right there among the favorites

But there are two more candidates I love as strong bets this week who are poised to see their odds shorten. Let’s take a look at where the MVP value sits here in Week 5.

Click Here For Complete NFL MVP Odds

Lamar Jackson +1300 Unibet

It’s somewhat shocking after Lamar Jackson’s performance last Monday night that he still sits eighth in current MVP odds. Jackson broke the all-time NFL record for completion percentage in a game where the quarterback threw 40 or more passes, an absurd record for Jackson to hold given it was just the third time in his career he’d thrown that many passes.

Working against Jackson is something I wrote about in my preseason column — potential voter fatigue in a modern era with so many deserving candidates. Jackson just won the award in 2019, and so it’s possible he’d have a bit of an uphill climb if there were multiple deserving candidates — no player has won the award within two years of previously winning it since Peyton Manning went back to back in 2008 and 2009.

But I don’t know, I’m not really buying that for Jackson. Much in the way Allen and Murray make sense as favorites because they account for so much of their offenses both as passers and rushers, Jackson is a dynamic force that has been carrying his team. And the Ravens have been throwing more this year and leaning on Jackson to be the bulk of their rushing attack after injuries have ravaged that position. From a statistical perspective, there’s no one that can really compete with what Jackson is pacing to do right now; if the Ravens’ offensive trends continue this way, Jackson’s final numbers have the potential to be absolutely legendary.

Perhaps Jackson’s odds are longer because there’s not much faith in a Ravens team that needed a 66-yard field goal to beat the Lions and furious comebacks to beat both the Chiefs and Colts. But Baltimore did get wins in those games, and they sit at 4-1, with two games each against the Bengals and the Steelers, plus matchups with the Vikings, Dolphins, and Bears in the three weeks after their Week 8 bye. The end of Baltimore’s schedule looks tough, but there are certainly paths to a 12-5 or 13-4 season for Baltimore, and that might be enough for voters to grant Jackson the award given the injury issues Baltimore has dealt with and the absurd stats he’s likely to put up.

Justin Herbert +750 PointsBet

Herbert currently sits fourth in MVP odds, but a massive matchup with Jackson’s Ravens looms in Week 7. The winner of that game is almost certain to see their odds shorten next week, so I like getting in on Herbert now.

There are other reasons to like Herbert, of course. Brandon Staley has the Chargers looking like a real Super Bowl contender with a defense designed to contain the types of explosive pass offenses that define the current NFL, something they’ve already done well against the Cowboys, Chiefs, and Raiders. And Herbert himself is playing at an incredibly high level, averaging over 300 passing yards per game with 13 passing touchdowns against just three interceptions.

Herbert’s candidacy would certainly be boosted if the Chargers can take down the AFC West, so it’s helpful in that regard that they are already two games up on the Chiefs and have beaten them head-to-head on the road. After their road game with the Ravens this week and a Week 7 bye, Los Angeles gets a stretch of winnable games against the Patriots, Eagles, Vikings, Steelers, Broncos, Bengals, and Giants, before they face off with the Chiefs again in Week 15. Both the Broncos and Raiders sit at 3-2 just a game back in the division, but Denver doesn’t look like a serious contender — they started with an incredibly soft first three games, and have lost twice since — while the Raiders of course parted ways with Jon Gruden this week. 

Herbert’s a nice bet to get in now, potentially in conjunction with a Jackson bet, because the winner of their Week 6 showdown will sit at 5-1 and be well on their way to looking like a favorite a couple of months down the road. Should the Chargers win, they’ll have a legitimate shot to go something like 14-3 or even 15-2 — after their next matchup with the Chiefs, they close with games against the Texans, Broncos, and Raiders. A division title with a fantastic W-L record featuring a breakout season from Herbert where he throws for 5,000 yards could be enough to earn the second-year gunslinger the award.

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NFL MVP Odds

PlayerOdds
Josh Allen+475
Kyler Murray+600
Dak Prescott+750
Justin Herbert+750
Tom Brady+750
Aaron Rodgers+1200
Matthew Stafford+1200
Lamar Jackson+1300

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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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