How to judge NFL awards market

November 9, 2021 08:12 PM
moore

One of the guiding principles of betting futures, particularly in the awards markets, is to stay focused on the long term and not be swayed by game-by-game occurrences. The mindset should be to avoid the weekly noise and think about what happens over the entire season. 

 

For those interested in the NFL awards, what happened over the weekend was especially noisy and difficult for even the most seasoned bettor to look past. 

 

Current MVP favorite Josh Allen played so poorly in Jacksonville it led to questions about why he was so short — about + 250 — to begin with. Dak Prescott suffered a case of the come-and-go blues after his Denver debacle. 

 

Matthew Stafford then had an audition to play the leading man in front of a prime-time national audience against Tennessee. He bombed by throwing more interceptions than touchdown passes. 

 

Last weekend’s games continued the season-long trend of the names and numbers moving around the MVP board. At different times, Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Kyler Murray, Prescott and Allen have been featured as MVP favorites. 

 

It seems as though this year’s awards market has more volatility than years past. 

 

Perhaps it is a result of the sports betting media’s growing interest in awards futures, along with so many new bettors who have a desire to jump into the market no matter when. 

 

Whatever the root causes, now that the season has reached its midpoint, bettors must examine how all this movement will impact their existing MVP bets and whether it can create some value along the way. 

 

First, Allen (+ 350 DraftKings and BetMGM) atop the board makes some sense since he is a dual-threat QB in charge of a high-scoring offense, but absolutely not at the current price. It’s way too short a number to act on in a deep MVP market with half the season left.

 

After Allen comes Brady (+ 375 BetMGM, + 350 DraftKings), a name overflowing with brand equity. At the beginning of the season I was not high on his MVP chances and believe that is still the case. The Brady-for-MVP story has been addressed by voters and journalists a number of times already. The desire of media members to tell new stories is powerful, and a playable price at this time should be higher, even for someone of Brady’s stature.  

 

With a lack of value at the top of the board and the favorites showing some flaws, bettors should look for an alternative.

 

Namely, instead of wagering on the individual player for the award, look at his team’s odds to win the conference. The idea here is if a player looks like an MVP repeatedly over the season, his team should get a first-round bye in the playoffs, therefore increasing the chances of winning a conference championship.

 

With so much uncertainty, it feels a little safer to bet on the long-term chances of the entire team rather than one player. Those with Titans futures feel much better than those who just bet Derrick Henry futures.  

 

If a bettor wants to back Allen or Brady, look at DraftKings for the Bills at + 250 and the Buccaneers at + 275 to win their conference. Sure, less return, but this wager compared with an MVP bet provides more room for error. 

 

Also, a futures bet made halfway through the season on a team instead of a player provides opportunities to hedge and possibly middle games come playoff time. Those are options that appear more resourceful this year with so much uncertainty in the awards market. 

 

After Allen and Brady come Murray (+ 750 DraftKings, + 475 BetMGM) and Stafford (+ 800 DraftKings, + 650 BetMGM). The difference in these odds indicates how difficult it is to handicap this award. 

 

Even at the higher available price, neither bet needs to be made at this time. 

 

Murray’s candidacy took a hit when backup Colt McCoy led the Cardinals to a 31-point outburst in a road win. The lightly regarded McCoy’s performance may make the voters look differently at Murray. 

 

Here comes the question those who already bet on Murray don’t want to hear: How much of Murray’s success is because of Kliff Kingsbury’s system?

 

While I am not necessarily advocating it, Kingsbury (+ 450 DraftKings) for Coach of the Year is a better bet to make now compared with Murray for MVP.

 

That same + 450 number is available for the Rams to win the NFC, and that also is a wiser wager than Stafford for MVP. 

 

The current MVP chances for Aaron Rodgers (+ 1200 DraftKings, + 900 BetMGM) are not congruent with these odds. Anyone holding a Rodgers MVP ticket should be concerned after his statements regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. 

 

Regardless of bettors’ opinions about the vaccine, they need to think about how media members will react to what Rodgers said. The main points Rodgers made are in direct opposition to how a majority of media members feel about the vaccine.

 

Stating an opinion that doesn’t fit the media’s orthodoxy is not the way to win a popularity contest.

 

Even if books doubled his odds, I would still recommend staying away from Rodgers for MVP. 

 

Media narratives can both build and destroy MVP campaigns. 

 

Prescott (+ 1200 DraftKings, + 900 BetMGM) and Justin Herbert (+ 1600 BetMGM, + 1400 DraftKings) are still in the conversation. The problem with these two is that they must play “pretty” to win. That means high passing totals and highlights every week. If not, they will remain relegated to the kind-of-close category. 

 

It will be hard for Prescott to put up gaudy numbers with December games at Washington and the New York Giants and the season finale in Philadelphia.

 

The last NFC East player to win the MVP was Emmitt Smith in 1993. The last QB from the division to win the award was Joe Theismann one decade earlier.  

 

The Chargers have a Sunday night matchup against Pittsburgh in two weeks. That game will have major implications for Herbert’s MVP candidacy. 

 

To find value on the MVP board, the focus should be on which QBs can win ugly. Two players happen to fit this profile. 

 

That means bettors have an opportunity to still make their initial MVP plays or a chance to remedy some early mistakes. 

 

Lamar Jackson (+ 1100 BetMGM, + 1000 DraftKings ) very well could be the best player in the league right now. His Baltimore team is exceeding expectations and is a considerable favorite to win the AFC North. At 11-1, that provides value and is worthy of attention. 

 

Jackson’s increased yardage through the air coupled with his impressive rushing output places him in the advantageous position of being recognized for creating offense rather than having to beat out someone like Brady for the passing title. 

 

Every Ravens win brings on more headlines about the overall improvement in Jackson’s quarterback play. The media momentum behind Jackson at the moment is noticeable, more than any other candidate. 

 

It will only pick up with Baltimore traveling to Miami and Chicago the next two weeks. 

 

These double-digit odds won’t be available much longer. Any bettor looking to make a single play on Jackson or using him for a hedge should do it soon.

 

Ryan Tannehill (+ 4000 BetMGM, + 3500 DraftKings) is another candidate showing plenty of value. A bet on Tannehill can be made in a highly speculative manner with a partial unit play. 

 

He is properly priced as a long shot but could come out of nowhere and win the award. 

 

No matter his output, every Tennessee win increases Tannehill’s stock. Since Henry is now out of the lineup, the QB is the beneficiary of the Titans’ recent success. Like Jackson, Tannehill just needs a combination of passing and rushing to earn accolades. Tennessee cruising to a double-digit win total without Henry is the type of storyline that can turn Tannehill into a legitimate MVP candidate. 

 

The Titans are home the next two weeks and will be favored when they host New Orleans and Houston. 

 

No non-QB candidate is legitimately worth a look. Cooper Kupp (+ 15000 BetMGM, + 8000 DraftKings) and Jonathan Taylor (+ 12500 BetMGM, + 10000 DraftKings) have too many hurdles in front of them.

 

Even though there is so much talk about the rotating favorites, those names tossed around are all still QBs.

 

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