With Week 4 in the books, we have reached the unofficial quarter post of the 2018 NFL season. Time flies, doesn’t it? While it may still be too early to draw many definitive conclusions about how the rest of the campaign will play out, we can work with what we have.
Through 4 weeks, the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs are the only remaining undefeated teams. The Arizona Cardinals, meanwhile, are still looking for win No. 1. And, yes, the Cleveland Browns finally won a real football game. As of this writing, a Rams-Chiefs Super Bowl is the most likely scenario, per the odds. Of course, there is still a looooooot of football left to be played, so tread lightly if you’re wagering on such things this early.
We have already seen a number of impressive individual statistical performances this season. Alvin Kamara has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Saints, while Patrick Mahomes has emerged as a legitimate potential superstar in Kansas City. Will either player keep it going for the rest of the season? If so, we could have quite the MVP race on our hands.
Below are the updated odds to win NFL MVP this season, heading into Week 5:
- Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs +400
- Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams +500
- Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints +600
- Tom Brady, New England Patriots +800
- Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers +800
- Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams +1400
- Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints +1600
- Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens +2000
- Carson Wentz, Philadelphia eagles +2500
- Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers +2500
- Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers +2800
- Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears +3300
- Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons +3300
- Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears +3300
- Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings +4000
- Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers +4000
- Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys +4000
- Alex Smith, Washington Redskins +5000
- Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals +5000
- Saquon Barkley, New York Giants +6600
- Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks +6600
- Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts +6600
So, of the 22 players listed, we have 17 quarterbacks, 4 running backs and a defensive player. Michael Thomas of the Saints has been putting up insane numbers on a regular basis, but the fact that he isn’t even getting a cursory mention here probably solidifies the fact that it’s almost impossible for a wide receiver to win MVP. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but it is what it is.
So Alvin Kamara, Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley and Khalil Mack are your non-QBs on the list. Through 4 games, Elliot is your leading rusher with 426 yards already. That’s nearly 100 more than Gurley, who currently ranks second (338). Kamara is currently eighth, but he does plenty of his damage through the air. Barkley is 11th with 260 yards on 56 carries so far.
Saquon Barkley is great, and it looks like he’ll have a wonderful career, but a rookie running back on a team going nowhere isn’t winning MVP. Elliott is clearly the best player on the Cowboys, but Dallas looks like another team that likely isn’t going to win anything of substance. He will continue to put up gaudy numbers, especially if the Cowboys continue to struggle in the passing game, but he’s going to need to crack 2,000 yards to even get consideration. I don’t think that’s impossible, but it’s not all that likely.
Kamara and Gurley are serving as offensive focal points for teams with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. The Saints got off to an inauspicious start by losing to Tampa Bay at home in Week 1, but they have since reeled off 3 consecutive wins. Kamara has been a monster. The second-year back has racked up 611 yards from scrimmage so far this season, which is 60 more than Elliott’s 551. Kamara already has 2 games this season in which he has topped 100 yards receiving, which is crazy. He has also scored 6 total touchdowns.
However, Kamara’s workload will likely take a hit moving forward now that Mark Ingram’s 4-game suspension has expired. Kamara will still obviously be heavily-involved offensively, but the insane amount of volume he’s been getting so far figures to get slashed. Kamara is the more high-upside player, but let’s not forget that Ingram topped 1,100 yards rushing last season. He’s going to be involved, one way or another. I would love Kamara as a value bet at +1600 if he were to continue serving as the Saints’ go-to offensive hub, but I think his role will diminish a bit.
Gurley hasn’t been as needed in the passing game for the Rams, but he has been a consistent source of production for what looks like the NFL’s best team thus far. He has also found the end zone 6 times while topping 100 yards rushing twice through 4 games. I do think a Ram will get legitimate MVP consideration, but I don’t think it will be Gurley. Again, something close to 2,000 yards rushing seems to be a starting point when it comes to running backs garnering MVP interest.
Khalil Mack has been worth the massive money the Bears paid him after securing him via trade with the Raiders prior to the season. Through 4 games, 3 of which have been Bears victories, Mack has racked up 17 combined tackles, 5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and he has returned his lone interception for a touchdown. The Chicago defense looks legitimately transformed this season, and Mack is the primary reason. Mack can certainly keep it up, but it takes a truly special season for a defensive player to win MVP. J.J. Watt was putting up historic seasons for the Texans a few years ago, and even he wasn’t getting much traction in the MVP race. Lawrence Taylor was the last defender to win MVP way back in 1986.
Mack definitely has a case, but the MVP award is a quarterback award. I think Kamara has the best chance of the non-QBs to win the award, but I don’t think any of these guys is a legitimate contender, unfortunately.
Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady are still going strong. These guys have combined to win 7 MVP awards to this point. Brady has 3, Rodgers has 2 and Newton and Ryan have 1 apiece.
Interestingly enough, Drew Brees, one of the most prolific passers in the history of the league, has yet to win an MVP. Could this be the year? Why not? The Saints were a trendy pick to win it all prior to the season, and Brees has led his team to a 3-1 start. He currently ranks seventh in the league in passing yards (1,295), but he has most impressively thrown 8 touchdowns without an interception to this point.
If the Saints are at or near the top of the NFC by season’s end, I think Brees will likely have built a very strong MVP case for himself. The fact that he has built a Hall of Fame-caliber career without winning one to this point will only endear him further to voters, I imagine. So, Brees at +600 is a very strong play, even at this early stage. I think the Saints are for real.
Rodgers and Brady have gotten off to rockier starts this season. Rodgers staged an incredible comeback win over the Bears in Week 1 after going down with what appeared to be a serious leg injury, but he hasn’t missed any time since. That said, he still hasn’t been putting up the gaudy numbers we’re used to seeing out of him. He can absolutely make up some ground by the time the season ends, but at this point I am not comfortable advocating for Rodgers here.
The Patriots suffered a deflating defeat in Detroit at the hands of a mediocre Lions team in Week 3 only to bounce back in Week 4 by trouncing the previously unbeaten Dolphins. I don’t think anybody will start to suggest that the Pats won’t be atop the AFC East at season’s end, but Brady hasn’t been putting up eye-popping numbers, either. The 3-time league MVP has already thrown 4 interceptions this season. During his MVP-winning campaign last year, Brady threw just 8 picks all year.
One bet I am very interested in here is Cam Newton at +2800. The Panthers are coming off of their bye week after starting 2-1. Newton, who won this award a few years ago, has played quite well. The 29-year-old has completed 67 percent of his throws for 646 yards with 5 touchdowns and an interception thus far. He has also contributed 28 carres for another 136 yards with 3 rushing scores to this point.
The NFC South is a tough division, but if the Panthers can hang with teams like the Saints and the Falcons then Newton will naturally get consideration. The passing numbers aren’t gaudy in the least, but Carolina is a more run-oriented team than either New Orleans or Atlanta. Keeping the Panthers relevant here should bode well for his MVP hopes. Newton at +2800 carries big money potential, so keep an eye on him.
I don’t think Ryan, Roethlisberger, Flacco or Rivers are viable MVP candidates at this stage, so bypass them all.
It looked like Carson Wentz was going to breeze his way to an MVP award last season before suffering an unfortunate ACL tear in December against the Rams. Brady would go on to win the award instead. Wentz returned from his injury in Week 3, and he hasn’t looked quite right. That’s obviously understandable for a guy coming off a devastating knee injury, but I do expect Wentz to find his footing as the season progresses.
A lot of Wentz’ MVP buzz from last year was a result of the Eagles being a surprising contender. After winning the Super Bowl, they certainly aren’t sneaking up on anybody this year. We know what greatness he’s capable of when healthy, though, so you can do far worse than punting on Wentz to win the award this season at +2500. I doubt voters will dock him points for missing the first 2 games of the season if his body of work over the last 14 games proves to be MVP-worthy.
As of now, though, the favorites to win the MVP are Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff. Mahomes has set the league on fire in his first year starting in KC. The former Texas Tech Red Raider has completed better than 65 percent of his throws for 1,200 yards with 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions. If the season ended today, Mahomes would win MVP in a landslide. The Chiefs being 4-0 was also largely unexpected, which certainly helps his cause.
As for Goff, he has improved upon last year when he was arguably the most improved player in football. Coming into the year, most envisioned Goff serving as a caretaker for an offense built largely around Todd Gurley. However, Goff has stolen the show thus far. The former No. 1 overall pick boasts an elite completion percentage of 72.4 percent. He has amassed 1,406 yards and thrown 11 touchdowns and just 2 picks. He enjoyed the best game of his career in Week 4 against the Vikings when he topped 400 yards and threw 5 touchdowns. He is the real deal.
Nothing against Mahomes, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that the Rams have more staying power this season than the Chiefs. Kansas City is absolutely capable of making a run in the weak AFC, but I don’t think many would argue with me when I say that Los Angeles looks like the best team in the NFL by a mile at this point. If Goff keeps producing steadily and the Rams keep winning at an elite clip, it’s hard to argue that he shouldn’t be the favorite. The MVP is often awarded to the quarterback on the best team. At this point, it looks like Goff’s the guy.
So, I like Goff at +500 slightly more than Mahomes at +400. Mahomes is definitely capable of proving me very, very wrong based on what we’ve seen so far, but I expect him to come down to earth. The Chiefs have a fairly tough schedule the rest of the way that includes games against the Jaguars, Browns (yes, the Browns have a good defense), Patriots, Rams and Ravens, among others.
I will rank my favorite MVP bets for 2018 as follows:
- Jared Goff +500
- Drew Brees +600
- Patrick Mahomes +400
- Alvin Kamara +1600
- Cam Newton +2800
- Carson Wentz +2500