One of the more ridiculous developments in recent years in the NFL, is the tendency to discuss the league MVP contenders just a few weeks into the season.
Sure, we’re talking about a regular season of 17 games that’s condensed compared to the NBA (82 games) or baseball (162), which means there’s a sense that everything is speeded up. And It’s broadly true that individual games carry more significance, but the idea of anointing the player of the year after three games is absurd, and altogether pointless.
No change this season with MVP candidates getting bandied around almost immediately, although what’s markedly different this time around is where we are now. By this stage of proceedings, we should have narrowed candidates down to two or three viable options, typically with a front-runner. But much like the tightly packed playoff picture in both conferences with very few teams establishing dominance, the race for MVP is similarly cloudy. That leaves room for one player to sprint away in the final few weeks of the regular season, or as seems likely, a bunch of five or six staking a comparable claim with none excelling to the degree previous winners have, and with little to choose between them.
NFL Regular Season MVP: Latest Odds
|Tom Brady||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||5/2|
|Josh Allen||Buffalo Bills||9/2|
|Aaron Rodgers||Green Bay Packers||11/2|
|Patrick Mahomes||Kansas City Chiefs||10/1|
|Kyler Murray||Arizona Cardinals||12/1|
*Odds provided by SkyBet. 18+. All odds within this article are accurate at the time of writing (12:00, 01/12/2021). BeGambleAware.
It’s worth reaffirming that the league MVP is usually a quarterback; the last eight have been, as have 17 of the last 20 winners — the other three winners, Adrian Peterson, Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson, were all running backs. The last defensive player to win it was Lawrence Taylor, 35 years ago, hence the separate Defensive MVP Award, so logically, quarterback is a good place to start.
The (narrow) front-runners are two future Hall of Famers, the reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers and some guy called Tom Brady. Both have had very similar seasons in many respects, presiding over two NFC contenders, with Brady quietly going about his cerebral business despite injuries for much of the season to two of his key weapons (Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski). He leads the league in TDs thrown (30), is second in passing yards, and his 54 passes of 20 yards or more puts him amongst the most prolific in the league. It’s been an impressive season and in the same way that the Oscars handed Martin Scorsese an award for The Departed to make up for oversights in years gone by, Brady could land the award partly as a make up for ‘only’ landing it three times during his illustrious career (Peyton Manning won it 5 times for context).
Rodgers, outside of the Packers’ nightmarish start to the season against New Orleans, has picked up where he left off last year. The recent win over fellow challengers the LA Rams another virtuoso performance despite playing through injury. His often-surly demeanour remains pointedly abrasive, his off season ‘want-away’ stance, and the off-field controversy surrounding behaviour in relation to Covid-19 team protocols, where he seemingly misled his colleagues on his vaccination status, have all contributed to Rodgers’ position as an anti-hero — a heel to Brady’s babyface. This persona is further accentuated by his style of play — grumbling juxtaposed with grace, an almost lackadaisical glide through the league, as if he finds it all too easy, like a video game trapped on an early level, when he’s completed it all years ago.
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Josh Allen is the other main QB contender for MVP but there’s a big drop from Brady/Rodgers and the younger player. He’s an impressive, dual threat, next-gen leader, whose success is testament to the patience and support Buffalo and his coach Sean McDermott have applied against the odds. In our world of breakneck pace, and short attention span, many would have moved on from his early struggles to the next big thing. The Bills’ two games against the Patriots over the next few weeks will tell us a lot about Allen’s maturity, and some solid performances against a challenging defense coached by Bill Belichick could elevate Allen’s stock onto a similar level to Brady and Rodgers.
Jonathan Taylor, the sophomore running back, has adopted this year’s spot of respectful inclusion, but realistically has little chance of winning — a staple of the MVP discussion every year — not least because of the disadvantage his position allows. His superb season (1205 rushing yards and counting) has been significant not only for its production, and the subsequent elevation of the Colts from also-rans to playoff contenders, but has also been instrumental in the revision of perspective on running backs, a position with rapidly falling stock over recent years in the modern NFL. Taylor almost single-handedly dismantled a typically impressive Bills defense, and his 14 rushing touchdowns (he has 16 total TDs) mean he’s scored more on his own than 25 other NFL teams in total this season.
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Cordarrelle Patterson is a wildcard few are talking about for the big prize — although his sensational season deserves credible consideration. He has 9 TDs, 900+ all-purpose yards, and despite being in the league for the best part of a decade, has emerged as a prototypical of-the-moment offensive powerhouse: a versatile and multi-skilled dynamo that lines up all over the field and is damaging week in, week out.
Patterson should conceivably be in the mix for comeback player of the year, though that typically goes to a player that’s been injured, or poor in the previous season, and he was neither, though his year-on-year upside has been extraordinary. More likely to win the comeback kid gong is Dallas’ Dak Prescott, though the Bengals’ Joe Burrow has been superb for much of the season, presiding over an effervescent Bengals offense that’s a joy to watch.
New England’s composed quarterback Mac Jones and Dallas’ dangerous pass rusher Micah Parsons seem to have the Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year awards locked in. The Defensive Player of the Year looks set to go to Myles Garrett — an impressive return to the top after his controversial ban a few years back for an egregious helmet hit on Mason Rudolph suggested ill-discipline may stifle his remarkable potential.
Nat Coombs is a British writer, broadcaster and NFL expert who has been anchoring live sport across UK TV & radio for over ten years. Nat will be providing Squawka with predictions for the 2021 NFL season.