Jameis Winston belongs in the NFL MVP conversation
We're two weeks into the 2021 NFL season, and the cream is already beginning to rise to the top. The Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have all shown flashes of brilliance, while teams like the New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Detroit Lions have all predictably struggled.
As preseason expectations begin to morph into reality, all manner of future bets are beginning to evolve as well. This includes one of the most coveted awards in professional sports, the NFL MVP.
Sat, February 12 2022, 10:00 PM
Mahomes is still in the driver's seat
This year’s favorite to win the award is Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The 2018 MVP makes throws no other quarterback in the league even dares to attempt, and plays for the favorites to win the Super Bowl. He had +450 odds to win the hardware entering the season, and currently sits at +550.
Rodgers and Allen have seen their MVP odds slip after false starts
Coming into the season, the second and third MVP favorites were Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers was last year’s winner, while Allen is now in his fourth season and has experienced exponential improvement each and every year. Big things are expected of Allen and the Bills in 2021.
Each of these players suffered ugly Week 1 losses, however, and as a result have seen significant upward movement in their odds. Allen and Rodgers had +800 during the preseason, but now sit at +1100 and +1400, respectively. Both players bounced back with big wins in Week 2, but those victories came with significant help from strong supporting casts, and did little to improve their individual MVP outlook.
While the top three candidates have all seen their odds get a bit longer, two players in particular have seen their odds improve.
Teddy Bridgewater has looked impressive
Denver Broncos’ quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had +8000 odds in the preseason, and now sits much lower at +5000. It is still a longshot, of course, but Bridgewater is putting up highly efficient numbers as the second-best quarterback in the league through the first two weeks.
Carr is turning heads in Las Vegas
The other major drop in odds due to his stellar play is Oakland Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr. Carr had +7000 odds entering the season, but now sits at +3000 after impressive outings against the Ravens and Steelers
Carr leads the league in passing yards through two games, but is just 21st in completion percentage, eighth in yards per attempt, and ninth in touchdowns. The three-time Pro Bowler has a fantastic receiving corps to support his gunslinger mentality, but head coach Jon Gruden historically has enjoyed having a strong running game, and is likely to limit his passing numbers. Furthermore, the Raiders have the look of a .500 team, and players on middle-of-the-pack teams don’t often win the MVP award.
Jameis Winston is worth a look at +3300
My top pick to win the award based on the current odds listed is New Orleans Saints’ quarterback Jameis Winston.
Winston opened his season with a dominant performance against last year’s NFC North winners, the Green Bay Packers, tossing five touchdowns in a 38-3 victory. Week 2 was a major letdown as the Saints lost 26-7 on the road to Carolina, but the Panthers have exhibited one of the strongest defenses in the league and the Saints were missing nearly their entire coaching staff due to COVID-19. This early on in the season, such a performance can be easily forgotten and forgiven.
Winston sits at +3300 to win, the same odds he had going into 2021. He is a polarizing figure, having gained notoriety in college for his successes on the field and his mistakes off it. He was equally polarizing while serving as the starting quarterback for the Buccaneers, confusing statisticians with his 30-30 season in 2019 when he threw for 33 touchdowns while also tossing 30 interceptions. Fans and critics alike were presented with the question, "is he good or terrible!?" It's a question that still follows Winston today.
The reality is that Winston is incredibly talented and committed to getting better. He has undergone a physical transformation and looks sleeker than in years past, and his pairing with Saints head coach Sean Payton is sure to pay dividends. The Saints had a Hall of Fame quarterback under center for years, but Winston’s arm strength is actually an upgrade on what Drew Brees was capable of in 2020.
This is a talented roster, and the Saints look poised to challenge the Bucs for the NFC South. If Winston plays well all season and the Saints pull a mild upset by winning the division, he is going to receive a lot of credit.
Winston is a longshot with value
Winston led the league in passing yards in 2019, and was second in touchdowns behind only the eventual MVP, Lamar Jackson. Replicated results in New Orleans and double digit wins should put Winston right in the conversation, and certainly at lower odds than the +3300 available now. If you’re looking for a longshot with value, you would do worse than the former first overall pick.