The Battle for 2018 NFL MVP Continues in Rams-Chiefs

Profile Picture: Adam Spradling

November 19th, 2018

We all know this is going to be a barnburner of a game, and if you're looking for a full betting preview, then we've got you covered. But there's an intriguing undercurrent to the narrative in this matchup and it circulates around the 2018 NFL MVP futures. While current favorite Patrick Mahomes will be center stage, there's another candidate on the field that absolutely deserves as much attention.

Let's be clear about a few things here. There are a lot of really strong, potential MVP's this year. We're truthfully being a bit spoiled at the top.
  • Patrick Mahomes leads the league with 3,150 yards, 31 touchdowns and is second in quarterback rating
  • Drew Brees is the highest rated quarterback (123.8) and has thrown 21 touchdowns against just one interception
  • Tom Brady still exists on a team that is going to make the playoffs
  • Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers are having absolutely brilliant seasons
That's the short version of it without me turning this article in to a dreaded list. Mahomes was -110 heading in to Week 11, followed by Drew Brees at +160. The conversation has mostly been about those two, and rightfully so since this is a quarterback's league. But Gurley is the third favorite at +600 ahead of both Rodgers, Rivers and the rest of the 2018 NFL MVP class. Why isn't he getting more publicity in this market?

The fact is that he should be.

Gurley's Production Is Historic

Everyone will always discuss numbers and team success, which is vital, but this should only further the case for Gurley, who is on pace to score 27 total touchdowns this season. Let's emphasize "on pace", because what I really mean is that Gurley is steamrolling for the number 31. That's the record held by LaDanian Tomlinson for the most touchdowns ever scored by a skill player in a single season. Tomlinson achieved this feat in 2006, one year after Shaun Alexander (Seattle Seahawks) had scored a total of 28 touchdowns the year prior. What else do Tomlinson and Alexander have in common? They were both named Most Valuable Player in those respective seasons.

Bolstering the potential for Gurley to win the 2018 NFL MVP is the fact that he's also on pace to total 2,224 yards from scrimmage at his current output. That would be the 20th best total accumulated by a skill player in the history of the league. To put that in to even more perspective, LaDanian Tomlinson piled up 2,323 yards during his MVP season in 2006 and Adrian Peterson accounted for 2,314 yards during his 2012 MVP campaign. There's no real doubt that Gurley can boost his credentials with a couple large outputs over the remainder of the season.

Ranking in the top-15 for total yards from scrimmage all-time while simultaneously assaulting the top-3 for most touchdowns by a non-quarterback has to count for something. Gurley should have won the award last year, and instead got the league's next-best prize with Offensive Player of the Year honors. Tom Brady was awarded the 2017 MVP regardless of the fact that he had a rather pedestrian season even by his standards. The league definitively values quarterbacks appropriately to a large extent, but in doing so they can easily overlook how prodigal a skill player is producing.

2018 NFL MVP Odds (prior to start of Week 11) Patrick Mahomes -110 Drew Brees +160 Todd Gurley +600 Aaron Rodgers +1600 Philip Rivers +1600 Alvin Kamara +2500 Tom Brady +3000

Patrick Mahomes Is Producing All-Time Great Numbers As Well

The ultimate issue for Gurley's 2018 NFL MVP campaign is that Patrick Mahomes is also having an incredible, historic season. He's on pace to throw for over 5,000 yards and could very well throw for 50+ touchdowns. The top-5 in this category all-time are 2013 Peyton Manning (55), 2007 Tom Brady (50), 2004 Peyton Manning (49), 1984 Dan Marino (48) and 2011 Drew Brees (46). Aaron Rodgers is sixth on this list with 45 touchdowns in 2011. That is some illustrious company.

Even crazier is that only five players have thrown for 5,000+ yards in the history of the league. That list includes all four guys listed above and Matthew Stafford. It would be just the tenth time in history that a player crested that coveted plateau.

Both of those achievements, along with the Chiefs essentially cruising to the top-seed in the AFC, lock Mahomes in as the best candidate to back in the 2018 NFL MVP futures. Still, it's not like Gurley should just be rightfully ignored. He has a chance on Monday Night Football to further showcase his game changing abilities in front of a national audience. Of course, so does Mahomes.

Also, The Case for Russell Wilson

Before we end, I need to mention another candidate who should be getting way more love in the 2018 NFL MVP race. Do you know what Gurley, Brees and Mahomes all have in common? Great coaches, incredibly talented teammates and proven success. You know what Russell Wilson has? Pete Carroll's weird faces and literally nobody else backing him. There should be a definitive case for Wilson carrying a listless sack of hapless football players to the playoffs.  Wins-Above-Replacement is a very tricky stat to pin down in the NFL, but Russell Wilson feels like he's a +8.0 guy right now. You can make the case that "well if you take Aaron Rodgers off the Packers, they're garbage" but the Seahawks are garbage with Russell Wilson at the helm. And they're still winning games.

He deserves mention in the 2018 NFL MVP discussion, even if he's not going to win the award. His numbers don't back up the case that traditionally earns the award. Beating the Rams would have thrust Wilson in to the debate, but without that win, it's hard to truthfully build a campaign around him.

This is a war between Mahomes and Brees, but Gurley is chasing them down in the futures market. Whether he can do enough to wrestle the top spot from Mahomes depends largely on how both fare tonight. The Rams have been pushed to -4.5 favorites at home on Monday Night Football.