Every NFL season brings its fair share of parity, but there is one major early-season development unfolding that almost nobody saw coming. The Kansas City Chiefs might be bad?
The Chiefs have ruled the AFC for the last three years. Kansas City hasn’t posted a regular-season record worse than 11-5 since the 2014 campaign, well before Patrick Mahomes was even in the league. KC has advanced to three straight AFC Championship Games along with two consecutive appearances in the Super Bowl. Even despite losing last year’s title to the Bucs, the Chiefs opened the 2021 campaign as betting favorites to win it all this term.
However, this doesn’t look like the same team. The Chiefs were smacked by the upstart Buffalo Bills, 38-20, at home on Sunday night, which dropped their record to 2-3 through five games. Andy Reid’s crew is alone in the cellar of the AFC West right now, which is unfamiliar territory for a team that has topped this division in each of the last five years.
Mahomes, who came into the year as the favorite to win his second career MVP, has taken plenty of the blame for the team’s inauspicious start. Mahomes’ MVP odds have also plummeted from where they were at the beginning of the year.
Is now the time to jump off the Mahomes MVP bandwagon? Or is this just a good buy-low opportunity?
Mahomes’ Odds Tank
Patrick Mahomes (+1800)
After last week’s five-touchdown showing in a romp of the Eagles, Mahomes was listed at +650 to win MVP at a variety of NFL betting sites. However, his team’s aforementioned setback at the hands of Buffalo on Sunday night did a number on those odds. Mahomes is currently listed at +1800 to win the award, which are the worst odds we’ve seen next to his name in well over three years.
Mahomes now has the ninth-best odds to win MVP after entering Week 5 with the second-best chances. He was picked off twice more against Buffalo, which means he has already matched his interception total from all of last season, with six. Mahomes does lead all quarterbacks with 16 touchdown passes, and he’s also on pace to breeze past his previous career-high for rushing yards. Mahomes has already totaled 153 yards on the ground with an average of 6.7 yards per attempt.
His odds have tanked because the Chiefs came into the season with such lofty expectations. Not only are the Chiefs in last place, but they’re finally dealing with a legitimate contender from their own division for the first time. The LA Chargers, who lead the division at 4-1, look extremely dangerous, especially considering they have already gone into Arrowhead and beaten the Chiefs.
The new 17-game schedule does give Mahomes a bit of extra leeway, though. We are still only a little more than a quarter into the regular season, so it’s too early to completely write him off as an MVP candidate. If Kansas City can bounce back and reel off a few wins in a row, Mahomes can easily get himself right back into the conversation.
That said, his chances of winning the award likely hinge on whether KC can catch Los Angeles in the division. The Chiefs are already two games off the pace, and the Chargers currently hold the tiebreaker. The teams will meet again at SoFi Stadium in LA on Thursday, December 16. That game may well go a long way toward determining whether Mahomes has much hope in the MVP chase. The new +1800 odds represent amazing value on a guy that came into the year as the favorite, but he’s now a massive underdog for a reason.
Allen Now Favored
Josh Allen (+450)
On the other side of the equation, we have Josh Allen, who is now alone as the betting favorite to win MVP. Allen and the Bills stormed into Kansas City and cruised to an 18-point victory over the team that ousted them from last year’s playoffs. Allen was outstanding on Sunday, throwing for 315 yards and three touchdowns on just 26 pass attempts as the Bills easily got past Kansas City. For good measure, he added 59 yards on 11 rushing attempts with another TD.
On the year, Allen has now completed about 62 percent of his throws for 1,370 yards with 12 touchdowns to just two interceptions. He has also scored twice more on the ground with another 188 rushing yards. Allen’s MVP odds took a dip after the team’s surprising loss at home to the Steelers in Week 1, but he has since righted the ship. Allen’s +450 odds to win the award are the best of any player, and the win over the Kansas City Chiefs resulted in that number shortening considerably after he entered the weekend at +700.
Expectations Were High for the Bills Coming Into the Year
At this point, you’d almost have to say that they’re the new favorite to escape the AFC. NFL betting sites happen to agree. Buffalo is now at +250 to win the conference title for the first time since the mid-1990s. Kansas City’s odds to do so have slumped to +350, while the Ravens (+500), Browns (+750), and Chargers (+850) aren’t far off the pace.
Allen should have no trouble padding his resume. The Bills are already two games ahead of the second-place Patriots in the woeful AFC East, which includes three teams with sub-.500 records. Buffalo, which has put 172 points on the board, is the only team in the division to have mustered as many as 100 points. Their point differential of plus-108 is very easily the best mark in the entire league. Arizona, at plus-62, ranks second.
The Bills still have two games apiece against the Patriots and Jets in addition to very winnable games against teams like the Jaguars, Colts, Saints, and Falcons. It’s obvious that no other team in the East is going to finish anywhere close to the Bills in the standings. It’s really just a matter of whether Buffalo can rack up enough Ws to finish first in the conference. At this point, you have to like their chances. Allen’s MVP odds may only continue to come down from here, so +450 is still a pretty good value.
Adams, Henry Join the Party
Davante Adams (+5000)
Derrick Henry (+6500)
Quarterbacks tend to win NFL MVP. That’s just the way it is. It takes a truly extraordinary season for a non-QB to win it. The last running back to win MVP was Adrian Peterson in 2012. The Vikings superstar rushed for 2,097 yards that year, which was the second-most in a season in the history of the sport. Peterson came just eight yards shy of matching Eric Dickerson’s long-standing single-season record. A wide receiver has never been named NFL MVP.
While the nine players with the best odds to win the award this year are quarterbacks, we do have a couple of non-QBs making their way up the board. Green Bay wideout Davante Adams is now listed at +5000, while Tennessee running back Derrick Henry checks-in at +6500. Both players are coming off of massive outings in Week 5 of the NFL season, which is likely why their MVP odds have shortened.
Adams was unstoppable in the Packers’ overtime win over the Bengals, hauling in 11 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown. Adams has the NFL’s highest target share over the past handful of seasons, and he’s one of the main reasons the Packers have gotten off to a 4-1 start. For the year, Adams has already totaled 42 catches for 579 yards and a couple of TDs. He ranks first in the league in catches, targets, and receiving yards as of now.
How dominant has Derrick Henry been?
Most Rush Yards over 40-game stretch NFL History:
Henry 4,792 (2018-21) Jim Brown 4,759 (1963-65) O.J. Simpson 4,739 (1972-75) Terrell Davis 4,597 (1996-98) Eric Dickerson 4,594 (1984-86)
Henry rushed for 2,027 yards last year, which was the fifth-best rushing season in NFL history. He almost single-handedly carried the Titans to an AFC South title, yet he still didn’t garner a single MVP vote. Aaron Rodgers cruised to the award, while Allen and Mahomes picked up the scraps.
So far this year, Henry is up to his old tricks. The former Heisman Trophy winner has run for 640 yards and seven touchdowns on 142 attempts. His average of 4.5 yards per carry is well below his career average of 4.9, but he is also far more involved in the Titans’ passing attack. Henry, who hasn’t been much of a factor in the passing game since turning pro, is on pace to smash his old career-highs in catches, targets, and receiving yards. Henry has already caught 14 balls after totaling just 19 receptions all of last year.
The Titans should have no trouble winning another division title this year, but Henry will likely have to post another 2,000-yard season to even sniff the league MVP award. Adding a 17th game to the schedule should help, but voters are obviously aware of that.
I understand why both players have seen their odds improve, but a lot has to happen for a non-QB to win MVP. Unless Adams shatters the receiving yards record or Henry does the same with the rushing record, it’s hard to see a path for either of them to win the award.
Other Contenders Hold Steady
Kyler Murray (+500)
Dak Prescott (+700)
Justin Herbert (+700)
Tom Brady (+800)
Allen may be the new favorite, but he has no shortage of challengers. Kyler Murray has led the Cardinals to a 5-0 start, which is a development few saw coming. Dak Prescott, Tom Brady, and Justin Herbert, meanwhile, have all lost just once each entering Week 6.
The fact that the Cardinals are unbeaten despite Murray not having played his best football yet should be alarming for the rest of the league. Murray has completed a stellar 75.2 percent of his passes for over 1,500 yards, but he still hasn’t gotten going on the ground. The former No. 1 overall pick has gained just 110 rushing yards with an average of 3.7 yards per carry on 30 attempts. Considering he ran for over 800 yards last year, there’s more upside to be found in his numbers moving forward.
Prescott and Herbert are in the MVP race for the long haul. Prescott added another three touchdowns to his ledger in the Cowboys’ 44-20 shellacking of the Giants last week, while Herbert threw for four scores in the Chargers’ comeback victory over the Browns. In his last three games, LA’s QB1 has amassed 11 touchdowns without an interception while leading LA to three consecutive victories.
It’s hard to believe, but Brady keeps reaching new heights. He threw for over 400 yards with five touchdown passes for the first time in his career in Tampa Bay’s 45-17 destruction of the Dolphins on Sunday. The 44-year-old remarkably leads the NFL in passing yards through five games with 1,767 along with 15 TDs to just two INTs. There is a very real chance that Brady will challenge his previous career-high of 50 touchdown passes in a season while eclipsing his old personal record for passing yards. Did I mention that he’s 44!?
Best MVP Bets Entering Week 6
As a bettor, you have plenty of options when it comes to betting on this year’s MVP race. While Mahomes has fallen by the wayside amid the Chiefs’ early-season struggles, I certainly wouldn’t say he’s a bad bet now that his odds have tanked all the way to +1800. He’s fully capable of dragging the Chiefs out of the basement and into contention, and there’s more than enough time left in the season for him to do just that.
As of now, Allen looks like the best bet. The Bills are flying high, and there is no reason to believe they won’t be in the mix for the top seed in the AFC by season’s end. Assuming he can stay healthy, Allen can put up MVP-caliber numbers in this offense.
The only question is whether the Bills will actually play enough close games for him to be able to do it. So far, they’ve been absolutely steamrolling their opponents, which has actually hampered his statistical output.
The 2021 NFL MVP award is officially Josh Allen’s to lose.
Josh Allen (+450)
Tom Brady (+800)
Justin Herbert (+700)
Dak Prescott (+700)
Kyler Murray (+500)
Patrick Mahomes (+1800)
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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