2020-21 NFL MVP: Predictions, Odds for Award's Top Candidates

Michelle Bruton@@michelle_nflFeatured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2021

2020-21 NFL MVP: Predictions, Odds for Award's Top Candidates

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    The attention of NFL fans is rightfully focused on the playoffs, which are heating up this weekend with some must-watch divisional-round matchups. 

    But the regular season won't soon be forgotten, and that's especially true for the 50 sportswriters who, at the end of the regular season, cast their votes for the Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player award.

    It's no surprise that the award's front-runners, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, are still leading their teams through the postseason. But it's the body of work they put together over the 17 weeks of the challenging and often bizarre 2020 season that will decide whether they deserve the league's top honor. 

    There are some other skill positions represented among the MVP betting favorites; Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry is currently fourth, and New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara and Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook round out the top contenders.

    But if there's one thing you can count on for this year's MVP award, it's that a quarterback will be the recipient. 

    Let's take a closer look at three quarterbacks who are hoping to be crowned NFL MVP at the NFL Honors ceremony on Feb. 6.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers (-2000)

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    It's no surprise Rodgers is the betting favorite for this year's MVP award. The Green Bay Packers signal-caller shattered records left and right this season, sometimes even one-upping...himself. 

    In 2011, Rodgers put together one of the best individual seasons in history, winning him his first of two total NFL MVP awards. That year, Rodgers played 15 games and amassed 4,643 yards and 45 passing touchdowns on 343 completions. He threw just six interceptions and had a completion percentage of 68.3. 

    This year, Rodgers threw for fewer yards on more completions (perhaps a byproduct of the changes coach Matt LaFleur has brought to the offense), but he had 48 passing touchdowns and a mere five interceptions for a completion percentage of 70.7. After 10 years, he has become even more accurate and efficient, but he still posts those gaudy numbers fans have come to cherish. 

    By the end of the regular season, all Rodgers did was lead the league in completion percentage, touchdown passes and passer rating. He also hit major career milestones, becoming the 11th player in NFL history with more than 50,000 passing yards and throwing his 400th touchdown pass (to, of course, wideout Davante Adams). 

    We're not comparing 2020 Rodgers to 2011 Rodgers in assessing his MVP chances this year, but we are comparing him to 2020 Mahomes and 2020 Allen. Let's take a closer look at how those passers stack up. 

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs (+1600)

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    With a quarter or so remaining in the 2020 NFL season, you could have made a solid case that Mahomes deserved the NFL MVP award over Rodgers. 

    By Week 17 of the regular season, however, the prevailing wisdom was that if Rodgers could lead the Packers to a win over the Chicago Bears and a 13-3 record, he was a near-lock for the award. 

    Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, however, didn't like that logic. In the final game of the regular season, Schwartz tweeted: "I like how the MVP debate is like 'well if Rodgers wins today he'll probably win it.' Shouldn't our guy get credit for winning so much he doesn't have to play today?? #MVPat"

    Mahomes' stats this season: 4,740 yards, 38 passing touchdowns, six interceptions, 66.3 completion percentage. His total yardage ranked second in the league; his total passing touchdowns ranked fourth. 

    While MVP voters must look at a complete body of work, Rodgers helped his case (and his team) by getting hot to end the season. He threw for eight touchdowns (!) in his final two games alone, and in his last four games, his rating dipped below 100 only once.

    Meanwhile, in Mahomes' final four games (Weeks 13-16), he threw for eight touchdowns total, and his passer rating didn't top 100 once. Of course, Rodgers' worst game (zero touchdowns and two picks against Tampa Bay in Week 6) was much worse than Mahomes' worst game (two touchdowns and three picks against Miami in Week 14). But Rodgers ultimately left a stronger impression on voters in the home stretch of the season. 

Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills (+2500)

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    John Munson/Associated Press

    Everyone expected Rodgers, two-time NFL MVP winner and Super Bowl champion, and Mahomes, reigning Super Bowl champion and 2018 NFL MVP, to be great in 2020. 

    The same isn't necessarily true of Allen. 

    After Allen's first full 16-game season last year, he showed promise, topping 3,000 yards and throwing 20 touchdowns to nine interceptions, far preferable to his lopsided ratio in his rookie season (10 touchdowns, 12 interceptions). 

    However, the leap he took from Year 2 to Year 3 made GM Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott look terrific for sticking with him. 

    As Buffalo easily claimed the AFC East crown with a 13-3 record, Allen topped 4,500 yards with a whopping 37 touchdowns, nearly double his 20 from 2019. His completion percentage jumped to 69.2. It's exactly what you want to see from a young quarterback in a consistent environment. 

    Allen's season wasn't nearly as even as Rodgers' or Mahomes', but like his counterpart in Green Bay, Allen finished the season hot, tossing 11 touchdowns in his final four games. He also sprinted out of the gate, totaling 12 touchdowns over the first quarter of the season to just one interception for 1,326 yards. To put that into perspective, he totaled 2,074 yards in 12 games his rookie season. 

    It's nearly impossible that Allen would unseat Rodgers or Mahomes for this year's top honor, but if he keeps playing like this, there may well be an MVP award in his near future. 

    Prediction: Rodgers by a landslide vote

        

    All odds via OddsChecker