Line It Up: Three Co-Favorites For MVP!

josh allen patrick mahomes handshake

While most Americans have other forms of voting on their minds this week, NFL futures bettors have carved out a little brain space for a vote that’s coming in January. At the conclusion of the regular season, a collection of 50 football journalists will vote on which player had the most value (whatever that means) over the preceding 18 weeks.

There’s a lot that can happen between now and then to influence their votes. It will depend on individual statistics, final team records, and who did and didn’t come through in the clutch, among other factors. The second week of November is a fine time to vote on certain things, but for NFL MVP, it’s quite premature.

But it sure is fun to discuss and to bet on at the midpoint of the season, and unlike any race you’ll be voting on this Tuesday, this one is suddenly a three-way toss-up.

At FanDuel Sportsbook specifically, the Bills’ Josh Allen, the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, and the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts all have the exact same odds to win the award: +250. Shopping around at a few other major sportsbooks that had MVP markets posted on Monday morning (not every book did), we see that prices vary somewhat at DraftKings, PointsBet, and BetMGM, but it’s a tight three-man race everywhere:

Beyond that favored trio, nobody else is under +1000 at any sportsbook. (Lamar Jackson was next, at +1000, +1200, or +1400 as of Monday.) Something bizarre would have to happen in the second half of the season for one of the +250 boys not to win the award.

Entering Week 9, Allen was the clear-cut favorite, followed by Hurts and then Mahomes. But Allen came up small in the late stages of a shocking loss when the Bills were double-digit favorites over the New York Jets Sunday (and he suffered an elbow injury that, though seemingly minor, can’t be good for his MVP chances). Hours later, Mahomes went ahead and threw for 446 yards — and ran for 63 more ­— in leading Kansas City to a come-from-behind overtime win over Tennessee. Meanwhile, Hurts was kicking back, having played highly efficiently Thursday in leading the Eagles’ victory over Houston, Philly’s eighth win against zero losses.

Final records will be a major part of the ultimate MVP equation. If the Eagles finish undefeated, you have to figure Hurts will win the award — and given their squishy schedule, 17-0 is not an impossibility. Even a 16-1 record, if nobody else is better than 14-3, would likely do the trick. But if Philadelphia loses a couple of times, Hurts won’t have much of a case against the statistically superior seasons of his competitors.

Through eight games apiece, Mahomes leads the league in passing yardage with 2,605. Allen has 2,403 and Hurts 2,042. Mahomes has 21 passing TDs to 6 INTs, Allen trails him at 19 and 8, while Hurts is way behind with 12 TDs but way ahead with only 2 picks. Mahomes has the best QBR of the three, while Hurts has the best quarterback rating.

Then there are the rushing stats. Allen has 392 yards and 4 TDs on the ground. Hurts has 326 yards and 6 scores. Mahomes has 176 rushing yards and a single TD.

At the best available prices for each — Allen +300, Hurts and Mahomes +275 — an outlay of $100 on each ($300 total) would return $400 if Allen wins and $375 if one of the others does.

As long as you’re confident that all three won’t get injured or see their teams collapse, the three-headed MVP monster is a strong wagering investment. It’s not the true spirit-of-the-game gamble that backing a single passer is, but it feels like the wisest play.

(And don’t worry, we’ll immediately delete this column from the internet when Geno Smith is voted MVP in a couple of months.)

Enough about individual players. Let’s talk teams and take a look at the opening lines and assorted betting odds and ends for Week 10.

The consensus lines

Most lines vary by half a point in either direction, with slightly different vigs from book to book, so it’s always advisable to price-shop at all the available mobile sportsbooks in your state. But here are the consensus (most commonly found) spreads for each of the 14 games in Week 10 (four AFC playoff contenders — the Jets, Patriots, Ravens, and Bengals — have byes):

Falcons (-2.5) at Panthers
Seahawks vs. Buccaneers (-1) in Munich
Vikings at Bills (-7.5)
Lions at Bears (-2.5)
Broncos at Titans (-2.5)
Jaguars at Chiefs (-9.5)
Browns at Dolphins (-4)
Texans at Giants (-7)
Saints (-2.5) at Steelers
Colts at Raiders (-6)
Cowboys (-5) at Packers
Cardinals at Rams (-3)
Chargers at 49ers (-7)
Commanders at Eagles (-10.5)

Line move to watch

Tennessee has a titanic question mark at quarterback. Mike Vrabel has game-planned impressively in two games with Malik Willis, relying heavily on Derrick Henry to grind out a 17-10 win over the Texans and come up just short against the Chiefs. But there’s no denying the Titans are at a disadvantage playing with a rookie QB who, in two starts, has tallied a total of 11 completions for 135 yards. Hardcore analysis alert: It’s tough to win in the NFL if you won’t occasionally throw the ball.

If Ryan Tannehill is confirmed back from his ankle injury, even if he’s not 100%, the line for the Titans at home against Denver, -2.5 as of Monday morning, could cross over that key number of 3. If Tannehill is confirmed to be out, the line could tighten up by a point or two.

Intriguing moneyline underdogs to consider

Listen up, humanoids: Red Hot Rasky’s gold medal underdog picks are now 7-1, and he even hit the silver medal pick last week for good measure! He’s even writing in the third person now! Fade his crystal ball at your own peril.

Bronze medal: Lions +125 (Betfred) at Bears. Justin Fields has clearly turned a corner, but Fields fever has moved the odds a little too far, creating value on a Detroit team that just snapped a five-game losing skid. Both teams are frisky. The Lions’ friskiness isn’t being celebrated as much. I like any plus money on them here.

Silver medal: Seahawks +115 (PointsBet) vs. Buccaneers. Dance with the one who brung ya. We keep picking the underrated Seahawks to win and they just keep winning. No, +115 isn’t an exciting payout, but when you can get +115 on the superior football team on a neutral field because preseason expectations are still influencing betting odds, you take it.

Gold medal: Jaguars +385 (Betfred) at Chiefs. Go big or go home! Last week, the gold medal pick was a safe play, much like this week’s bronze and silver selections. Let’s live a little. The Jags are a wild card — you never know what you’re going to get from them from week to week. But they’re in every game. Every single one of their losses has been by between 4 and 8 points. And against the Raiders on Sunday, they got over a hump and closed one out, scoring 27 of the game’s final 30 points to win for the first time since September. The Chiefs are a wild card coming from the opposite direction — an elite team capable of laying the occasional egg. Off big wins over the Niners and Titans and ahead of a divisional rivalry game with the Chargers, this one screams letdown.

Textbook teaser candidates

Fans of the three-team (or more) teaser know what to look for: favorites of 6 or more who become very safe bets if you reduce the spread by about a touchdown. Here are this week’s options that fit the bill:

Bills: Can tease down to -1.5 or -0.5 against the how-do-they-keep-doing-it Vikings.
Chiefs: Can tease down to -3.5 or -2.5 against the not-quite-dead-yet Jaguars.
Giants: Can tease down to -1 or pick’em against the still-giving-it-their-all Texans.
Raiders: Can tease down to pick’em or +1 against the there’s-always-next-year Colts.
49ers: Can tease down to -1 or pick’em against the scary-if-they-could-get-healthy Chargers.
Eagles: Can tease down to -4.5 or -3.5 against the better-off-without-Wentz Commanders.

Pick three (or more), pick 6 points or 7 (or 6.5), and let the sweating of a +140 or so return begin. The Bills killed every teaser in Week 9. Who will it be in Week 10? For reasons outlined in the moneyline underdog section above, we’re not trusting Kansas City in this spot. If Allen is healthy, it’s hard to see the Bills losing two in a row. The Giants seem safe just needing to win, by any margin, against Houston. And the well-rested Niners should be in a good spot. If you must tease, we’d go the full 7 points with the Bills, Giants, and 49ers. But if this season has taught us anything so far, it’s that teasing should never feel like a must.

Gadget plays

The sportsbooks sure don’t believe in the Giants, huh? They’re 6-2 and they’re at home coming off their bye, and they’re only giving 7 points against a 1-6-1 team? Granted, Daniel Jones and company are one of the worst 6-2 teams we’ve ever seen, but this line against the Texans is stunningly disrespectful.
Of the nine games the Colts have played this season, eight have gone under the point total. The players will still surely try their hardest, but management presumably wants to position the team for a crack at a good rookie QB — and firing Frank Reich on Monday isn’t going to help the offense in the short term. Is the line of 42 for Sunday’s game in Las Vegas — only the fourth-lowest on the board this week — low enough?
With a two-game cushion on everyone but the Vikings, and either the Vikings or Bills taking a loss this coming week, the Eagles are -140 at FanDuel to finish with the best regular-season record. Other than Dec. 24 in Dallas, it’s hard to imagine any remaining game on their schedule in which the Birds won’t be favored.

Photo: Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY

Author: Ryan Gonzales