The Most Valuable Player Award would be the first track on an album of Super Bowl props. It is a timeless classic and an old favorite, but it’s also an award that some bettors overcomplicate.
Too many people approach the Super Bowl with the mindset of trying to bet a little to win a lot. They’ll talk themselves into things that have a minuscule chance of happening, or bet something that isn’t offered at anything remotely close to a true price. It isn’t up to us to be the fun police with the big game, but sage advice and some tough love is sometimes required.
As it pertains to the MVP Award, the best approach is to keep it simple. History tells us that this is a quarterback-driven award.
MVP Award winners in the last 25 Super Bowls
Here are the winners by position in the last 25 Super Bowls (dating back to Super Bowl XXXI in 1997):
— Quarterback (15): Brady (5), Eli Manning (2), Peyton Manning, Mahomes, Foles, Flacco, Brees, Rodgers, Warner, Elway
— Running back (1): T. Davis
— Wide receiver (5): Edelman, Holmes, Ward, Branch, Howard
— Defensive player (4): Miller, M. Smith, D. Jackson, Lewis
Terrell Davis won it in Super Bowl XXXII in 1998 and is the only running back to win the award since Emmitt Smith in 1994. Julian Edelman (LIII) became the first wide receiver to win the award since Santonio Holmes (XLIII) won it 10 years earlier.
Here are the odds of MVP winners since Super Bowl XXXVIII, courtesy of VSiN database guru Jason Latus (years listed represent the date of the game, not the season):
— 2021: Brady ( 190)
— 2020: Mahomes (-120)
— 2019: Edelman ( 2000)
— 2018: Foles ( 325)
— 2017: Brady ( 150)
— 2016: Miller ( 2200)
— 2015: Brady ( 160)
— 2014: Smith ( 2000)
— 2013: Flacco ( 250)
— 2012: E. Manning ( 180)
— 2011: Rodgers ( 150)
— 2010: Brees ( 225)
— 2009: Holmes ( 1500)
— 2008: E. Manning ( 250)
— 2007: P. Manning ( 100)
— 2006: Ward ( 1200)
— 2005: Branch ( 2500)
— 2004: Brady ( 150)
The non-QB winners have all been 1200 or higher. The QBs have largely been priced in the same range as this year’s quarterbacks, with the exception of Nick Foles in Super Bowl LII. The defensive players were 2000 or higher.
Recent MVP Award winners
Of the last 12 Super Bowl MVPs, nine were quarterbacks. Two defensive players won the award, and the only offensive player that wasn’t a QB was Edelman. So the award has become even more QB-heavy in recent years.
There have been some strong performances from running backs and wide receivers in recent Super Bowls that have not garnered enough votes to win the MVP Award. Here are a few examples:
— RB Leonard Fournette: 16 carries, 89 yards, TD; 4 receptions, 46 yards
— MVP Tom Brady: 21-of-29, 201 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 1 sack
— RB Damien Williams: 17 carries, 104 yards, 1 TD; 4 receptions, 29 yards, 1 TD
— MVP Patrick Mahomes: 26-of-42, 286 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 4 sacks; 9 carries, 29 yards, 1 TD
— RB James White: 6 carries, 29 yards, 2 TDs; 14 receptions, 110 yards, 1 TD
— MVP Tom Brady: 43-of-62, 466 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 5 sacks
— WR Jordy Nelson: 9 receptions, 140 yards, TD
— MVP Aaron Rodgers: 24-of-39, 304 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 3 sacks
Brady’s tremendous comeback in Super Bowl LI might be a bad example, but White had a monster game by running back standards and never had a prayer. The two most recent years are excellent examples of how hard it is for a non-QB to win the award.
A tight end has never won the award. Wide receivers don’t win because the quarterback is the one throwing the passes. The Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch may have ended the running back streak in Super Bowl XLIX, but we’ll never know.
Ask yourself a question heading into Super Bowl LVI: What are the chances that Joe Burrow is not the MVP if the Bengals win the game? I’d say it’s probably about a 2% chance, if that. You can find him in the 225 range to win the award. If Cincinnati wins, he’s extremely likely to be the MVP, even if Ja’Marr Chase or Tee Higgins has a big game.
The Rams’ side is open for more debate, as we know what Cooper Kupp is capable of and the problems the Bengals have on the offensive line. Aaron Donald is 16-1 at most shops, about the shortest number we’ve seen for a defensive player. It could happen, but you aren’t getting much line equity.
Something to consider with Super Bowl MVP betting is how the award is voted on. A panel of 16 football writers and broadcasters make up 80% of the ballot, and fan ballots make up the other 20%. Writers always want a good story. Is there a better story for the Rams than Matthew Stafford toiling away in Detroit only to win a Super Bowl in his first season with the Rams?
While there may be some attractive prices on the board and some paths to the MVP for other players at bigger prices, it would be pretty surprising if somebody other than Stafford or Burrow won the award.