NFL MVP 2014: Odds for Top Candidates

Nick Kostos@@thekostosContributor IJanuary 29, 2014

NFL MVP 2014: Odds for Top Candidates

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    The race for the 2013 NFL MVP award was not close, as Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is widely expected to win the award for a record fifth time.

    Even though there's still one game left in the 2013 season, it's never too early to look ahead to the MVP candidates for next season. I've been asked to assign my odds to the players I feel are most likely to win MVP, and while I'm not a sportsbook in Las Vegas, I feel pretty good about my choices.

    Starting with a few honorable mentions, here are my odds for the top candidates to win the 2014 NFL MVP award.

Honorable Mentions

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    There are a number of players who fell just outside my list of 2014 MVP candidates. They are:

    San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick

    While Kaepernick ascended his game in the postseason, it's unclear whether or not he'll be able to put up the eye-popping passing numbers needed to win an MVP award. So while he's likely to lead a loaded 49ers team back to the postseason in 2014, he can't be put above any of the other names on the list in terms of the MVP discussion.

    Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson

    Wilson might be starting in the Super Bowl this Sunday, but like Kaepernick, he hasn't yet shown an ability to put up huge passing numbers, which leaves him behind the eight-ball for league MVP. But with a win this Sunday in Super Bowl XLVIII, it's doubtful the great Seahawks fans will care if Wilson even takes home the regular-season MVP award.

    San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers

    Rivers had a career renaissance in 2013, tossing 32 touchdown passes and leading the Chargers on a surprise run to the divisional round of the postseason. But I cannot in good conscience list him above the other eight names on the list.

    Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles

    Yes, I know Foles had a remarkable season in 2013, and his touchdown-to-interception ratio of 27-2 was nothing short of ludicrous. But some level of regression to the mean is inevitable, as there's no way he'll author a repeat performance. Eagles running back LeSean McCoy is a better bet for league MVP.

    Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt

    Watt is the defensive player with the best chances of winning MVP, but his only chance is if the Texans draft South Carolina edge-rusher Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, and Clowney's presence opens up Watt  to do even more damage than necessary. The Texans would also have to make the postseason for Watt to have any chance at all.

Cam Newton

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    Kostos' Odds: 30/1

    The Carolina Panthers finally broke through in 2013, winning 12 games and clinching their first NFC South title since 2008. And while the defense was undoubtedly spectacular, the Panthers got it done largely on the strength of quarterback Cam Newton.

    While Newton put up eye-popping numbers in 2011 and 2012, last year was his best season yet, as he combined for 30 touchdowns. He was supremely clutch as well, guiding the team to close victories against NFL powerhouses San Francisco, New England and New Orleans.

    If the Panthers can ever add a legitimate No. 2 wide receiver opposite Steve Smith, look out, as Newton will surely put up ridiculous statistics. Because the Panthers have the feel of a playoff team again next season, Newton will certainly garner some offseason attention for league MVP.

Tom Brady

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    Kostos' Odds: 25/1

    Despite the fact that he threw for only 25 touchdown passes, his lowest total since 2009, last season might have been one of the most impressive in the career of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. 

    Brady entered the year without his top-five pass-catchers from 2012: receivers Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and running back Danny Woodhead. Even without those targets, Brady directed an offense that scored 444 points and the team to a 12-4 record and first-round bye in the postseason.

    Coach Bill Belichick is sure to reload in the offseason with more weapons, and one has to imagine that receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, rookies in 2013, will be better next year with another offseason under their belts.

    Brady's greatness has been proven throughout the years. It would be foolish to discount his chances.

Andrew Luck

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    Kostos' Odds: 20/1

    In his two seasons in Indianapolis, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has guided the team to back-to-back 11-5 seasons and playoff appearances, and earlier this month, he engineered the second-largest comeback in postseason history, guiding his team back from a 28-point deficit to beat the Chiefs, 45-44.

    While he only scored 27 touchdowns in 2013 (23 through the air and four on the ground), that can be traced to a lack of talent at the skill positions. Once receiver Reggie Wayne was lost for the season with a torn ACL in Week 7, the offense wasn't the same. Receiver T.Y. Hilton is a good player but was miscast in the No. 1 role, and the rest of the pass-catchers were nothing to write home about.

    Expect general manager Ryan Grigson to add talent at the skill positions this offseason, giving Luck a full complement of weapons and the best chance for success. Luck's meteoric upside means he needs to be on every MVP list for the remainder of his career.

Ben Roethlisberger

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    Kostos' Odds: 16/1

    You're probably looking at this and wondering how the quarterback of an 8-8 team could have such good odds to win NFL MVP next season. The reason is because that player is the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, and he's due for a massive year in 2014.

    While the Steelers missed the playoffs, it wasn't because of Roethlisberger, who threw 28 touchdown passes against only 14 interceptions.

    He did so without a functional run game for much of the first half of the season and behind an offensive line that once again wasn't up to snuff, allowing 43 sacks on the season.

    There's little doubt that the Steelers will be better next season. Running back Le'Veon Bell will be entering his second season, and he looked great as the season drew to a close. And receiver Markus Wheaton could be ready to emerge in Year 2, joining a talented group of pass-catchers that includes receivers Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.

    Expect Roethlisberger to put up big numbers in offensive coordinator Todd Haley's attack and guide the Steelers back to the postseason. He's a dark-horse candidate for MVP.

LeSean McCoy

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    Kostos' Odds: 12/1

    Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy won the rushing title in 2013, amassing 1,607 yards on the ground and scoring a combined 11 touchdowns. He was the best back in football and was named first-team All-Pro.

    And because he plays in the high-octane spread offense employed by coach Chip Kelly, McCoy should have another monster season in 2014. The Eagles offensive line is one of the best in football, anchored by left guard Evan Mathis and left tackle Jason Peters, and they'll be busy opening up massive holes for McCoy to run through.

    Plus, the emergence of quarterback Nick Foles revitalized the team's passing attack, which can only mean good things for McCoy.

    Because of the eye-popping numbers he's sure to put up, McCoy comes in as the non-quarterback with the best odds to win 2014 NFL MVP.

Drew Brees

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    Kostos' Odds: 8/1

    5,162 yards. Thirty-nine touchdown passes. A completion percentage of nearly 69 percent. Ho hum. Just another season at the office by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

    Brees consistently puts up video-game numbers in coach Sean Payton's offense, and with the myriad of talent around him on offense, it's a safe bet that he'll put up similar statistics in 2014.

    Plus, the Saints should be even better next year, and they're coming off an 11-5 season in 2013. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will have another offseason to fine-tune his scheme, and the team is expected to go to any and all lengths to make sure tight end Jimmy Graham is brought back.

    If the Saints can win the NFC South and Brees puts up similar numbers to his last few years, he'll absolutely find himself in the MVP race.

Aaron Rodgers

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    Kostos' Odds: 4/1

    Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers won an MVP in 2011 and is certainly capable of taking home another. At this point, he's second only to Peyton Manning among NFL signal-callers, and that means he's second on this list of potential MVP candidates.

    Rodgers only started nine games in 2013 after breaking his collarbone on Monday Night Football against the Bears in Week 9. He threw for only 2,536 yards and 17 touchdown passes, by far the lowest numbers he's put up since becoming the full-time starter in 2008. 

    But don't get it twisted: Rodgers is still one of the finest players in the league and will absolutely bounce back in 2014. He has a number of explosive weapons at the skill positions, from running back Eddie Lacy to receiver Jordy Nelson, and a coach in Mike McCarthy who knows how to maximize his talents.

    Rodgers' epic performance in the Week 17 win over the Bears that clinched the NFC North championship was the stuff of legend and served as a reminder of what he's capable of on a week-to-week basis.

    Packers fans, you're in good hands. It should surprise no one if Rodgers wins his second MVP award next season.

Peyton Manning

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    Kostos' Odds: 2/1

    Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is coming off the greatest season in history at the position, having thrown an NFL-record 55 touchdown passes and leading the offense to a record 606 points. Manning is a virtual lock to win his fifth MVP award when the honors are handed out this Saturday night.

    If Manning returns next season, he will be the overwhelming favorite to win his sixth MVP. He is playing at such an elite level, and the Broncos are stacked with weapons on offense, even if they lose receiver Eric Decker in free agency. In 32 regular-season games in the Mile High City, Manning has 92 touchdown passes against 21 interceptions. Those numbers are preposterous.

    The only thing that could prevent Manning from another MVP is if he retires after a Super Bowl win this Sunday. After his neck surgery a few years ago, no one would blame him for going out on top with a second Lombardi Trophy on his resume.

    But if he does return, there's no doubt that he'll be the favorite to claim the MVP award in what's sure to be another spectacular season.