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NFL Awards Betting: The Favorites & Sleepers So Far

We finally have enough of a sample size to determine which players — specifically which quarterbacks — truly belong in the MVP conversation.

We’re six full weeks into the NFL season and are finally starting to figure out which teams (and players) are for real. “He’s rightfully in the MVP conversation” is a phrase that we will repeatedly hear from color commentators over the coming weeks watching the Kyler Murrays and Dak Prescotts of the world do their thing.

Football fans and media pundits love debating awards, especially the MVP, and we as bettors can reap the benefits of those debates because we can bet on the awards.

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When thinking about award odds, or sports betting in general, it’s worth mentioning that we are betting on probabilities. Every price mirrors an implied probability. Here is how we can convert American odds (the kind written in -110/+110 format, as opposed to fractions or decimals) to probabilities:

  • Implied probability for negative odds = odds / (odds + 100) * 100
  • Implied probability for positive odds = 100 / (odds + 100) * 100

Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray, and Josh Allen are among the MVP favorites. Each of those guys is listed at +500 (16.7% probability) or lower at most places. Tom Brady follows the top group at around +800 (11.1%). Starting at +1200 (7.7%), the next quarterbacks are guys like Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, and Patrick Mahomes; the latter was listed at +1300 (7.1%) at FanDuel.

Making a Case for Patrick Mahomes

The first non-QB listed is Titans running back Derrick Henry at +2000 (4.8%). Let’s be honest: It’s virtually impossible for a non-QB to win the MVP award in today’s NFL, and the current market prices reflect that. King Henry is on pace for a historic season, but nine other guys are listed above him in the MVP race as things stand.

Timo Riske from Pro Football Focus has built an MVP projection model that he updates every week – it’s worth checking out. One of the names that pops up high on his list? That superstar signal-caller from the Chiefs. At 18-1 odds, Pat Mahomes is listed as the ninth-highest quarterback; that could be an overreaction to the Chiefs’ 3-3 start.

Note that Kansas City has faced a brutal schedule to begin the season. In the Browns, Ravens, Chargers, and Bills, they played four different opponents that could find themselves in the playoffs come January.

Furthermore, the Chiefs’ offense is doing something completely ridiculous: They lead the league in points per drive (3.24) and turnovers (.236). Mahomes and Co. committed 14 turnovers through six weeks, which is the most in the league. And yet, they are still the NFL’s highest-scoring team on a drive-for-drive basis.

For comparison, the 2020 Packers offense with MVP Aaron Rodgers scored 3.22 points per drive while averaging the fewest turnovers per drive.

The turnovers have been the only real issue for the Chiefs so far. We are talking about fumbles and tipped interceptions — Kansas City has been riding the bottom side of variance that will regress sooner rather than later. Against Washington, KC scored 31 points despite turning the ball over three times inside the WFT 38-yard line.

When we exclude turnovers, the Chiefs average 0.08 EPA (expected points added) per play more than the second-best offense behind only Kyler Murray’s Cardinals. Once they stop coughing up the ball at such a high clip, their offense could erupt. In 2018, when Mahomes became league MVP, Kansas City averaged 3.25 points per drive. With that in mind, we’re likely to witness a record-setting scoring season at Arrowhead once everything’s tallied.

Sacks and INTs

Another attractive awards betting market? Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY). Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald has won the award three out of the past four seasons, but it’s time for a change. Cleveland pass-rusher Myles Garrett is the favorite at +350 (22.2%), followed by Dallas cornerback Trevon Diggs at +500 (16.7%).

Sacks sell – the biggest argument for Myles Garrett at this point. He has collected 9.5 of them over the first seven games of the campaign, a 23-sack pace for a 17-game season. If 23 ends up being the number, voters would likely have a hard time not choosing Garrett. The new-look Browns defense, especially with Jadeveon Clowney causing havoc on the opposite side, finally allows Garrett to parlay his pass-rushing skill into high sack numbers. 

Over in Arlington, Diggs is living off seven interceptions in six games, which is absurd, but much harder to sustain going forward than Garrett’s sack rate. Over the past 10 seasons, only one defensive back was named DPOY – Stephon Gilmore in 2019 for the Patriots. Eight of the last 10 DPOY awards, meanwhile, have gone to pass-rushers.

At DraftKings, Aaron Donald is listed fourth at +850 behind Garrett (+320), Diggs (+500), and TJ Watt (+500). I would not be surprised if he overtakes Diggs soon.

If both guys stay healthy, Offensive Rookie of the Year (OROY) honors will be decided between Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (+250) and Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (+400). Trevor Lawrence is one of three gentlemen listed right behind at +800, but he’s playing for a poor Jaguars team and shouldn’t be considered a true contender. Jones keeps improving in Foxboro, but Chase’s big-play ability catching balls from college teammate Joe Burrow in Cincy is an x-factor that cannot be ignored.