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MVP race shapes up as Mahomes runaway

Winning is rarely easy when it comes to NFL betting. There are always exceptions, of course, and Patrick Mahomes is an exceptional quarterback who appears to be the subject of an easy play.

A bet on the Kansas City Chiefs to win the Super Bowl is not as simple as it might seem, and there’s not much value in the 5-2 odds offered at most sportsbooks.

A bet on Mahomes to win the MVP award appears to be that easy. BetMGM and DraftKings each posted a price of -250 on Monday morning, and both books were at -400 by the afternoon.

“It’s Mahomes and there’s nobody else,” said Vinny Magliulo, a veteran Las Vegas bookmaker and VSiN oddsmaker. “Aaron Rodgers is second, but he’s not a close second.”

Mahomes passed for 462 yards and three touchdowns Sunday in Kansas City’s 27-24 win at Tampa Bay. The Chiefs took a 27-10 lead into the fourth quarter, so bettors who laid 3.5 points took a tough beat in a game that was on the brink of a blowout. Mahomes is the league leader with 3,497 passing yards and has 30 touchdowns with two interceptions.

Barring injury or something unforeseen, Mahomes should be voted MVP, as he was in 2018.

Rodgers remains in the race, however, after passing for four touchdowns Sunday night in the Packers’ runaway victory over the Bears. Rodgers leads the league with 33 touchdown passes and has four interceptions, numbers that would suit the leading candidate in most seasons.

“You have to keep Rodgers in the mix, but he might be the only one,” DraftKings sportsbook director Johnny Avello said. “Rodgers is having a great year, and the MVP is about who’s the most valuable guy to their team. The Packers might have three wins without Rodgers.”

Green Bay (8-3) owns the second-best record in the NFC behind New Orleans (9-2). The Packers project as favorites in each of their final five games against Philadelphia, Detroit, Carolina, Tennessee and Chicago.

Kansas City (10-1) has the AFC’s second-best record behind Pittsburgh (10-0). The Chiefs face a tougher schedule going out, including back-to-back road games at Miami and New Orleans in Weeks 14 and 15.

A week ago, before he lit up the Buccaneers and outplayed Tom Brady by a mile, Mahomes was the -150 favorite to win MVP at DraftKings.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, the MVP favorite nearing the season’s midpoint, has faded in the last month. Tennessee’s Derrick Henry, the league’s leading rusher with 1,257 yards, is running uphill in the MVP race. At DraftKings, Rodgers is the second choice at 11-2 odds, followed by Wilson (+ 650), Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (20-1) and Henry (33-1).

“The MVP is a quarterback’s award to lose, like the Heisman Trophy,” Magliulo said. “It’s tough to go against Mahomes. For a young player, he’s got a phenomenal football IQ. He’s mentally ahead of his years.”

The Chiefs are 14-point home favorites against the Broncos in Week 13. Denver expects to have Drew Lock back as its starting quarterback after its top four quarterbacks were ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Saints because of coronavirus concerns. In a bizarre scenario, the Broncos were forced to play practice-squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton at QB in their 31-3 loss.

Denver was a 6-point underdog to New Orleans before the emergency quarterback situation was announced Saturday. The line closed as high as 17 at several books, and the total was adjusted from 45.5 to 36.5.

“If that was a college game, it would have been canceled, but the NFL is trying to play every game,” Avello said. “We lost a little on that game, but it wasn’t crazy or a big loser. You would have thought we lost our brains, but that wasn’t the case.”

USBookmaking director Robert Walker, who formerly ran the MGM Mirage books, questioned the “integrity” of the NFL forcing the Denver game to be played and stated in another tweet: “Embarrassed that I put up a line on the Saints/Broncos game. Probably would not have booked it if it were an exhibition game. It went exactly how we thought it would go.”

The Broncos actually caught a break by facing Saints quarterback Taysom Hill instead of Mahomes and the Chiefs.

“If the Chiefs had played the Broncos (in Week 12), with the quarterback circumstances for the Broncos, they would have been about 30-point favorites,” Avello said.

The NFL has shuffled the schedule several times in the last week and might soon go to a Week 18 scenario that pushes back the postseason. 

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, last season’s long-shot MVP winner, has been ruled out of Wednesday’s game at Pittsburgh after testing positive for COVID-19. Baltimore was posted as a 4.5-point underdog before the Thanksgiving game was postponed, and the line has been reposted at Steelers -10.5.

“I thought the Ravens were going to beat the Steelers on Thanksgiving, but now that game is up to -10,” Avello said. “The Steelers are undefeated, so let’s see if that continues.”

Pittsburgh has three other challenging games remaining — at Buffalo in Week 14, home versus Indianapolis in Week 16 and at Cleveland in Week 17. If the Steelers run the table, Roethlisberger could make a run at MVP.

Stranger things have happened, and this is 2020, after all. But in this race, Mahomes is set to run away from Rodgers and the rest of the pack.

BIG BETS, BIG LOSERS

The biggest bets are not always the sharpest plays, and three examples of major wagers placed with BetMGM during Week 12 highlight that lesson:

— $200,000 on Las Vegas -3 at Atlanta — Raiders lost 43-6.

— $100,000 moneyline wager on Chicago + 320 — Bears lost 41-25.

— $500,000 on Seattle -6.5 at Philadelphia — Seahawks won 23-17.

Obviously, the bet on Seattle was one of the worst beats of the season. Carson Wentz lofted a 33-yard Hail Mary that was deflected and caught for a touchdown by Richard Rodgers with 12 seconds left. While most coaches would have sent out the kicker for a routine extra point to make the margin seven, Eagles coach Doug Pederson opted for a two-point try, which was converted on Miles Sanders’ run up the middle.

Still, it was not a sharp bet in the sense that the Seahawks were available at -5 to -6 for much of last week. It’s a costly lesson for one bettor and a reminder to others not to take the worst of the number.

 

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