Setting 2012 NFL MVP Award's Early Odds

Dan Van Wie@@DanVanWieContributor IIIJuly 18, 2012

Setting 2012 NFL MVP Award's Early Odds

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    If you look at the history of the NFL MVP award, you will note that since 1981, a quarterback has either won or shared the award a whopping 22 times. No other position player comes close. 

    Running backs are next in line, with eight winners (outright or shared). Only two other positions have won the award, and they've only done it once: kicker (Mark Moseley in 1982); defensive player (Lawrence Taylor in 1986). The fact that kickers have more MVP awards than wide receivers is rather baffling, but that is the reality.

    I wonder if general managers are using that fact to keep down the price of wide receiver contracts...

    As quarterbacks have won the MVP award the past five years running, and we are in the midst of a huge uptick in passing production in the NFL, it would be a shock if another quarterback didn't win in 2012.

    However, there still exists the possibility that some NFL teams will be more oriented toward slowing down the game by running the ball more. If they were extremely successful in executing that game plan, a running back could very well come away with the award.

    Here are the early odds for the 2012 NFL MVP award candidates.

Honorable Mention

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    This slideshow's list of MVP candidates is limited to only 12 players. However, if things break a certain way, any of the following players could find themselves in the running.

    So without further ado, here are the honorable mentions.

    Defensive Players

    Justin Smith and Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers (Will they cancel each other out?)

    Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants

    Darrelle Revis, New York Jets

    DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys

    Jason Babin, Philadelphia Eagles


    Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

    Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Matt Schaub, Houston Texans

    Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

    Michel Vick, Philadelphia Eagles

    Running Backs

    DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys

    Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

    Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams

    Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins

    Wide Receivers

    Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

    Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

    Wes Welker, New England Patriots

    Andre Johnson, Houston Texans

Maurice Jones-Drew: 20-1 Odds

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    Maurice Jones-Drew performs much better than the team for which he plays, making it harder for him to win the MVP.

    How will Jacksonville fare in 2012? The quarterback play figures to be suspect, as Blaine Gabbert is still learning the craft and doesn't expect to succeed right away in 2012. The Jaguars figure to give the ball to Jones-Drew early and often.

    The only question about Jones-Drew is this: If he decides to hold out for any portion of the 2012 season, can we still consider him for the MVP award? Probably not. The deck is stacked against him already; missing any games would mean he can forget about the MVP.

    Jones-Drew signed a new deal as recently as 2009, so it is hard to feel sorry for him. If he didn't like the contract back then, nobody was forcing him to sign it.

Chris Johnson: 20-1 Odds

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    Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson has rededicated himself to the NFL for the 2012 season. Good thing, because in 2011, he reported to the team late and out of shape after a prolonged contract holdout.

    Johnson reported to Titans practices and looks to be in good physical shape. If the Titans are able to spread out the defenses more by utilizing rookie wide receiver Kendall Wright, Johnson should finish back among the top 10 in rushing yardage. In 2011, Johnson he fell outside the top 10 for the first time in his career.

    The only remaining factor is who will start at quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker. Either way, the Titans are expected to be throwing the ball more. Less touches will yield a fresher Johnson, but he will have to make the most of fewer opportunities.

Matt Forte: 20-1 Odds

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    Just like Ray Rice, Matt Forte was on the receiving end of a new contract on deadline day, also known as July 16. Now securely in the fold, Forte can begin concentrating on being a dynamic player for the Bears.

    The news of Forte's new contract broke on Monday, via Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times:

    BREAKING: agree to terms with Pro Bowl RB Matt Forte on a long-term contract, according to source close to the situation.

    The Bears signed Forte to a four-year, $32 million deal, which includes more than $18 million in guarantees. So, Forte is happy, the Bears are happy, and the fans should be happy. What about Forte's chances to win the MVP award?

    On the surface, Forte was the Bears offense in 2011. He was the focus of the running game, and he led the offense in receptions. But the landscape is clearly different in 2012. Jay Cutler has some new toys to work with in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Not only that, but signing free-agent running back Michael Bush will definitely cut into some of Forte's production, whether in short-yardage situations or in the red zone.

    It looks like it will be more of an uphill battle for Forte to win the MVP in 2012. But at least he is getting paid well.

Ray Rice: 20-1 Odds

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    Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice had reason to celebrate this week when he signed a new contract before the July 16 deadline.

    A report by Nate Davis of USA Today cited a Carroll County Times report that Rice is due to collect $40 million over five years, including $25 million the first two years and $17 million in 2012.

    So, with a happy Rice expected to report to training camp, how likely is he to win the MVP award in 2012?

    For many years, the Ravens defense has been their calling card. They lost some key players in free agency, and they also will be without Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, who sustained an Achilles' tendon injury. On top of that, All-Pro safety Ed Reed has been a headache and is talking about how much he enjoys being at home with his family.

    On the surface, things aren't lining up perfectly for Baltimore in 2012. The offense is going to have to pick up the defense this year, and if that happens, Rice would be in prime position to earn some MVP votes.

Fred Jackson: 20-1 Odds

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    Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson was well on his way toward an MVP-worthy campaign in 2011 when he broke his leg against the Miami Dolphins in Week 11, depriving him of a Pro Bowl and possible first-team All-Pro berth.

    When the injury happened, Jackson had already gained 934 yards rushing and 442 receiving. In those nine games, Jackson demonstrated his explosiveness, with eight plays that went for 20 or more yards. The Bills haven't had somebody that dynamic in the backfield since Thurman Thomas.

    One of the interesting byproducts of Jackson's injury was the long-awaited emergence of C.J. Spiller. With Jackson watching in street clothes, Spiller was able to start for the final six weeks and prove that he was ready to earn more touches.

    Spiller will undoubtedly be cutting into Jackson's 2012 numbers, costing him yards and potential touchdowns that will send votes elsewhere. 

LeSean McCoy: 20-1 Odds

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    If the Philadelphia Eagles are going to win the NFC East, LeSean McCoy has to have a big year. Sure, Michael Vick will need a big year as well, but now that Vick is 32 years old, it will be McCoy that has to lead the Eagles offense.

    In the 2011 season, McCoy finished fourth in the NFL in rushing yardage, coming up with 1,309 yards in 273 carries for an average of 4.8 yards per carry. McCoy's 17 rushing touchdowns led the NFL, as did his 14 rushes of 20 or more yards.

    As a receiver, McCoy caught 48 passes and scored another three touchdowns. His 20 touchdowns from scrimmage is a number that is worthy of MVP consideration.

    Expect McCoy to again be a focal point of the Eagles offense. He could be in for another huge year.

Arian Foster: 20-1 Odds

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    Houston Texans running back Arian Foster is the final running back up for MVP consideration. Foster dealt with some issues with his quad last year, but you never would have known it watching him run in the playoffs.

    In the regular season, Foster finished right behind LeSean McCoy in rushing yardage, placing No. 5 in the final rankings, as he gained 1,224 yards in 278 rushes for an average of 4.4 yards per rush. Foster also had 10 rushing touchdowns.

    Foster turned his game up in the 2011 postseason. Against Cincinnati, he exploded for 153 yards against a top-10 defense. The following week, against another top-10 defense in the Baltimore Ravens, Foster racked up 132 rushing yards on 27 carries and caught five passes for 22 yards.

    Foster was rewarded with a new contract in the 2012 offseason. The Texans finally broke their playoff drought last year, and they appear to have enough pieces in place to be annual contenders. Provided that Foster can keep his legs healthy, he has the chance to warrant serious MVP consideration.

    Don't forget that the Texans have a capable backup in Ben Tate, so if Foster shows any signs of being hurt or fatigued, the Texans will turn to Tate to keep their star back fresh.

Eli Manning: 20-1 Odds

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    Eli Manning is one of only five quarterbacks selected for consideration.

    Manning led his team to one road playoff win after another last season en route to his second Super Bowl ring. Manning will be on the minds of MVP voters following his strong 2011 postseason, but it was inevitable that the champions would lose some of their key players.

    Gone are Mario Manningham, Jake Ballard and Brandon Jacobs, so Manning may need to work out the chemistry issues with their replacements early in the season.

    In David Wilson and Rueben Randle, Manning has two rookies to break in to the offense. Although they are talented, it will take some time for them to get comfortable with the NFL game. As a result, Manning may not be giving either one of them many touches early on.

    Manning will need Hakeem Nicks healthy from Week 1. If not, defenses can focus on Ahmad Bradshaw and Victor Cruz and dare Manning to use the other spare parts to try to move the ball down the field. I am not convinced the Giants have a great tight end situation this year, so there could be some holes in the Giants offense in the early going.

Matthew Stafford: 10-1 Odds

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    Matthew Stafford arrived in 2011, and he arrived in a big way. Stafford threw 41 touchdown passes, passed for 5,038 yards (good for No. 3 in the NFL) and had the No. 5 overall QB passer rating. Not too bad for his first full season of work in the NFL.

    Now that everybody has an idea of what Stafford can do, what will his 2012 look like? Defenses are fully aware that he can throw the ball, and he also proved that he is healthy.

    One of the keys to Stafford's success is the Lions running game. Plenty of defenses worry about the Lions' air attack, but not many are concerned with what they can do on the ground.

    As a result, defensive coordinators don't have any reason to hesitate blitzing Stafford if it means they can disrupt the passing game. Until the Lions can prove to the rest of the NFL that they have a running game that teams have to respect, Stafford is a marked man.

    Stafford came a long way in 2011. If he takes another similar jump in 2012, he could very well be the MVP of the league.

Drew Brees: 10-1 Odds

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    I love this picture of Drew Brees. The New Orleans Saints quarterback has his throwing arm pinned, so he just passes the ball with a heave of his left hand. Whatever it takes to win, Brees knows how to play quarterback like very few others do.

    It was great for Brees, the city of New Orleans and the Saints that Brees signed his new contract last week. It rewards him for his loyalty, devotion to team and community, outstanding performance year in and year out and being a truly great team leader.

    I can't think of any NFL player that deserved such a great contract more than Brees did.

    Now that he is on board, what will his upcoming season look like? For starters, the Saints lost wide receiver Robert Meachem and guard Carl Nicks, two players who will be missed. Landing guard Ben Grubbs was a big deal, so the drop-off at that position shouldn't be that severe, if there's any at all.

    There are still a ton of weapons at Brees' disposal. At running back, there is Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and the talented Darren Sproles. The receiving corps still has Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, Devery Henderson, Lance Moore and rookie Nick Toon. As you can see, Brees will have plenty of options.

    The biggest question marks for New Orleans will be coping with the loss of their suspended coaches and players on defense. If the defense stays on the field longer in 2012, that means fewer snaps and fewer possessions for Brees.

    And how badly will Brees miss the expertise of head coach Sean Payton? For the concerns listed, Brees was bumped to 10-1 odds, which is still pretty good, but he is no longer one of the two favorites for the MVP award.

Aaron Rodgers: 5-1 Odds

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    Aaron Rodgers is coming off an NFL MVP season. Can he be a repeat winner like Peyton Manning before him?

    On the surface, you have to like Rodgers' chances. Just look at the NFC North teams' defensive rankings against the pass: Detroit (22), Minnesota (26), Chicago (28) and Green Bay (32). That is an ideal setup for any quarterback who has aspirations of winning the MVP (not to mention, another good reason why Stafford has a decent shot at the award).

    The Packers don't have running back Ryan Grant, but that shouldn't greatly impact Rodgers. They acquired a valuable center in Jeff Saturday, who should eliminate any feelings of loss over Scott Wells leaving.

    Rodgers still has weapons galore in Jermichael Finley, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Randall Cobb, so that bodes well for Rodgers to put up huge numbers again.

    Green Bay did draft with the intent of improving their overall team defense, so that should help out the offense as well.

    The biggest issue with Rodgers is what happens if he gets injured. The Packers don't have anybody effective to plug in behind him. So, will the Packers adapt their offense to put Rodgers in less risky situations, where he doesn't take as many big hits when he rolls out?

    They can ill afford to lose him for any length of time.

Tom Brady: 5-1 Odds

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    Even though Wes Welker didn't get the long-term contract he wanted, I would have to imagine that the vast majority of New England Patriots' offensive players can't wait for the 2012 season to begin. They are simply loaded.

    With new free agents like Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth to go with returning players like Welker, Deion Branch, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, Tom Brady will have multiple throwing options on every play.

    The combination of Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen gives Brady two youthful backs. The Patriots also claimed tight end Jake Ballard away from the Giants—like they needed another offensive weapon.

    The Patriots have the easiest strength of schedule. Next easiest is Green Bay, which is just one more reason why Rodgers ranks in the top two. For a link to check out the 2012 schedules, go here.

    While it is conceivable that somebody else can win the 2012 NFL MVP, my money is on either Brady or Rodgers.

    We will see how well this prediction pans out. Thanks for checking out the presentation.