2022 NFL MVP Odds, Picks, Predictions: 2 Bets To Make Before the Season for Patrick Mahomes, More
Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Mahomes.
It's time to wrap up our season-long awards previews for the 2022 NFL season, and we've saved the big one for last: MVP.
Most Valuable Player — three words that will send any sports conversation down the rabbit hole for hours at a time, debating the meaning of "value" and who deserves the award and what the MVP criteria should be.
Aaron Rodgers is our defending MVP after throwing 37 TDs and just four picks, racking up 4115 yards and a third straight 13-win season for the 1-seed Packers. Rodgers pulled away from Tom Brady late (much to our chagrin) and took home 39 of 50 votes to become the fifth back-to-back MVP ever.
So what exactly defines a Most Valuable Player? What makes one player more valuable than others? What sort of player wins MVP? Is this a quarterbacks' club or is the race open? And how much of this just comes down to narrative?
We'll monitor this award all season, so let's set the stage by building a historical winner profile and considering 20 potential MVP candidates. I'll explain why we're ruling out half of the candidates up front and name the two preseason picks you really have to bet.
Be sure to check out all the other award picks if you haven't already:
- Offensive Rookie of the Year (OROY)
- Defensive Rookie of the Year (DROY)
- Coach of the Year
- Offensive Player of the Year (OPOY)
- Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY)
- Season Awards podcast ft. Gilles Gallant & Brendan Glasheen
Who Wins Most Valuable Player?
Let's take a look back at the past 15 MVP winners:
- 2021 Aaron Rodgers: 4,115 yards, 37 pass TDs, 4 INT, 13-4, 1 seed
- 2020 Aaron Rodgers: 4,299 yards, 48 pass TDs, 5 INT, 13-3, 1-seed
- 2019 Lamar Jackson: 3,127 yards, 43 TDs, 6 INT, 14-2, 1-seed
- 2018 Patrick Mahomes: 5,097 yards, 50 pass TDs, 12 INT, 12-4, 1-seed
- 2017 Tom Brady: 4,577 yards, 32 pass TDs, 8 INT, 13-3, 1-seed
- 2016 Matt Ryan: 4,944 yards, 38 pass TDs, 7 INT, 11-5, 2-seed
- 2015 Cam Newton: 3,837 yards, 45 TDs, 10 INT, 15-1, 1-seed
- 2014 Aaron Rodgers: 4,381 yards, 38 pass TDs, 5 INT, 12-4, 2-seed
- 2013 Peyton Manning: 5,457 yards, 55 pass TDs, 10 INT, 13-3, 1-seed
- 2012 Adrian Peterson: 2,097 rushing yards, 12 TDs, 10-6, 6-seed
- 2011 Aaron Rodgers: 4,643 yards, 45 pass TDs, 6 INT, 15-1, 1-seed
- 2010 Tom Brady: 3,900 yards, 36 pass TDs, 4 INT, 14-2, 1-seed
- 2009 Peyton Manning: 4,500 yards, 33 pass TDs, 16 INT, 14-2, 1-seed
- 2008 Peyton Manning: 4,002 yards, 27 pass TDs, 12 INT, 12-4, 5-seed
- 2007 Tom Brady: 4,806 yards, 50 pass TDs, 8 INT, 16-0, 1-seed
You probably noticed a few patterns. Here's what I see:
1. Quarterbacks win MVP
You're probably not shocked to learn that 14 of our last 15 MVPs have been quarterbacks.
To be fair, we cut this off at 2007 for a reason. The previous two years saw Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson win MVP by rushing for NFL records 27 and 28 TDs in a bygone workhorse running back era.
The only non-QB MVP in the last 15 years was Adrian Peterson, who nearly broke the all-time rushing record. Even with those three, 19 of 22 MVPs (86%) this century have been QBs.
Cooper Kupp is the only non-QB to get an MVP vote in the past four years. He got exactly one (1) vote. This is a quarterback's award.
2. We love repeat winners
Look how often the same names come up. Four of those last 15 MVPs went to Rodgers. Three more went to Tom Brady and three more to Peyton Manning. That's 67% of all MVPs — two of every three! — to the same three guys.
Manning even had a pair of MVPs before this stretch. Looking back even further, 21 of the past 33 MVPs were won by Rodgers, Brady, Manning, Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, Steve Young, or Joe Montana. That's 64% of all MVP trophies to the same seven dudes everyone knew was best. MVPs win again.
3. … but not usually consecutive winners
Rodgers was an exception to the rule. Jim Brown won the first two MVPs ever in 1957-58. Since then, only four men have won MVP in consecutive seasons, only Rodgers and Manning this century. Favre is the only player in history to win three in a row.
Think how unlikely that is: over 60% of all MVPs go to the same guys who keep on winning, but almost never the same ones in back-to-back years. This field might not be as open as it seems. MVPs repeat — but rarely consecutively.
4. We need some serious statistical production
Check out the average line for an MVP during this 15-year stretch: 4,405 passing yards, 40.0 passing TDs, and 7.8 interceptions. Not bad! We'll likely need even higher numbers than that since passing is only increasing in the modern era and those numbers are over a 16-game season.
That's about 275 yards and 2.5 TDs a game, and those numbers go up even further if we exclude Lamar Jackson and Cam Newton, who did much of their damage on the ground. The touchdowns especially stand out, with 10 of the 14 hitting extreme outlier TD rates their MVP season.
5. We need a winner. Like, a big-time, serious winner
This is the most important takeaway, and it's what drives the narrative portion of the award. Like it or not, quarterbacks get by far the most credit for wins and losses, and we need a winning quarterback.
Our 14 QB MVPs went 187-38, a sparkling 83.1% win rate. That's a 14.1-win pace over a 17-game season — that's a lot of wins.
Our MVPs finished as the conference 1-seed a whopping 11 times (79%), plus twice as a 2-seed (and bye week). The only one outside the top-2 seeds was Manning in 2008, an unlikely, probably bad winner.
6. Long shots have ruled the day lately, but if it's on already elite QB, shorter odds are OK
Our last four MVPs started the season at +1100 or longer. In fact, six of the last seven MVPs began the year that long, with 2017 Brady the only exception. That reversed the trend from the previous six years, where only one of those six winners started the year longer than +800.
Because we see so many repeat elite QB winners, favorites do tend to be in the mix historically. Is the recent trend toward long shots a blip on the radar, or does it reflect a new voter pattern? It may be too soon to tell.
It's not like the new long shot winners have stuck around. Four of our last 10 winners never received a vote before their MVP win and never got another vote since. Sounds more like unpredictable outliers to me.
7. Advanced metrics tend to be great predictors of MVP voting
The great website RBSDM tracks Expected Points Added (EPA) and Completion Percentage Over Expectation (CPOE) to measure QB value, along with a composite EPA + CPOE to rank the league's finest.
Over the last decade, every quarterback MVP but one finished the season top-two in EPA, and six of the nine finished No. 1. The same is true for EPA + CPOE, with all but one finishing top-two and six of the nine at No. 1. Every QB except Cam Newton from our list of 15 MVPs above finished top-two in EPA. Rodgers ranked No. 1 in both in each of the last two years.
For now, that doesn't help us much until we get some season data, but it's a good tool to keep an eye on as the season progresses. History says EPA is a great MVP predictor.
So what are we looking for in an MVP winner?
This is an individual award, but it's really a team accomplishment. We need a QB capable of a 13-win season and a run at the 1-seed, and they need to have a real shot at 4500 yards and 40+ TDs.
Okay, let's look at the candidates.
Don't Bet on a Non-Quarterback
Jonathan Taylor +5000
Derrick Henry +5000
Cooper Kupp +7500
Do not — do not — bet on a non-QB. Just don't.
Cooper Kupp caught 145 passes for 16 TDs and nearly 2,000 yards, leading the league in all three categories. He got one MVP vote. Jonathan Taylor ran for 1,811 yards, almost 600 more than the next closest competitor. He led the league in rushing yards and TDs and didn't get a single vote.
If you bet on a non-QB, you're betting on outlier historical voting and historically great outlier production. That's just not a smart play. If you want to bet an a wild statistical RB or WR season, bet OPOY instead.
Long Shots To Keep an Eye On
Trevor Lawrence +8000
Everyone loves a sophomore leap. Lamar Jackson made a sophomore leap and won MVP. Mahomes did it the year before. Lawrence wasn't good last fall but played for a coach actively sabotaging the team. Replacing Urban Meyer with Doug Pederson's competence makes last year's No. 1 pick a hot breakout candidate. The Jaguars should improve, but a run at the 1-seed is too much to ask. I'd rather bet Jacksonville at +800 to go worst-to-first in its division.
Matt Ryan +6000
Voters love past winners, and Ryan could be rejuvenated on a new team. It's not hard to imagine the Colts going 6-0 against AFC South foes and piling up wins. Still, Matt Ryan has steadily declined over the past four years since winning MVP and feels much closer to game manager than MVP at this point.
Kirk Cousins +5000
Could Cousins be this year's Matt Ryan? Minnesota has elite weapons in Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen, and new hire Kevin O'Connell could play the role of Kyle Shanahan, opening up this offense with pre-snap motion that freezes opposing linebackers and give Cousins clean reads. If he has a hyper-efficient season with big TDs for a contender, Cousins could get some buzz.
Jalen Hurts +2500
The Eagles have a super soft schedule and a case for best non-QB roster in the league with an elite offensive line, top notch secondary, and terrific D-line. Hurts has an easy narrative since he's effectively playing for his job, and now he has a new toy in A.J. Brown. Philadelphia could have a real shot at the 1-seed, and I'm a believer in Hurts. His running threat could put him on the Newton or Jackson MVP path. The only problem? Hurts is such a popular sleeper that he's been bet down too far to have much value.
Contenders Whose Teams Aren't Good Enough
Derek Carr +2800
Carr is a buzzy MVP sleeper, but I don't buy it. Davante Adams was a big acquisition, but the Raiders have a bad offensive line, a poor defense, and questionable coaching. The AFC West is loaded. Carr is the worst QB in the division and has unquestionably the worst roster. I'd rather bet on Cousins, who has a similar case in a softer division with better teammates.
Kyler Murray +2000
The underlying numbers say Murray has MVP talent, and he's been a leading first-half candidate each of the last two seasons before getting hurt. But Murray and the Cardinals have fallen off a cliff without DeAndre Hopkins, and he's suspended the first six weeks. Arizona plays the Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, and Eagles that stretch and could get buried early. Add in bad blocking and defense and questionable play calling plus a brutal schedule, and it's too much.
Dak Prescott +1600
The Tyron Smith injury ended any MVP hopes for Dak Prescott before they started. Dallas's offensive efficiency has cratered without Smith, and Prescott also lost security blanket receiver Amari Cooper and won't get as much help on defense this year. Dallas opens with a tough first six weeks against a flurry of terrific pass rushes, so that line will be tested immediately.
Okay, we've ruled a lot of good players out. We're down to 10 legitimate contenders. It's time to consider the favorite.
Josh Allen +700
Allen makes sense as MVP favorite. The Bills are Super Bowl favorites and play in a winnable division with an elite defense, so there's a clear path to the 1-seed. Allen is the entire Buffalo offense, for better and for worse. If he does what he did in the playoffs all year, Allen could be a runaway winner.
But remember, favorites have not been winning MVP. And though it feels like Allen is "due" after waiting his turn, that's not what history says. Outside of the three Hall of Famers the last 15 years, four of the other five MVPs only ever received votes in their winning season. Allen was runner-up in 2020, so it feels like he got next, but what if that was already his outlier career season?
Allen loses offensive guru Brian Daboll and already fell off in consistency last season when his YPA dropped to 6.8 and he racked up 15 interceptions. He'll need to be far more efficient after finishing 10th in EPA + CPOE.
Even if you're ready to throw all that out after seeing what Allen did in the playoffs, you shouldn't bet him right now. The Bills open with losable games against the Rams, Titans, Dolphins, Ravens, Steelers, Chiefs, and Packers. They could very well start 4-3 but finish 8-2.
Don't be surprised if we add Allen to our MVP portfolio mid-season once the odds have dropped — but you can't bet him as the favorite right now.
Keep a Watchful Eye on Past MVPs
Lamar Jackson +2000
Jackson makes a ton of sense as an MVP candidate. He consistently runs for around 1000 yards and added a ton of passing volume last fall. Like Allen, he's a one-man offense, and he plays for an obvious positive regression team that's a great worst-to-first candidate with the Ravens returning to health.
Jackson was in the MVP mix last year before getting hurt but also struggled against blitzes and faced a number of tricky defenses with a funky opening schedule with a tough division backloaded late. If the Ravens win 13 with Jackson doing everything in a contract year, the narrative will write itself.
Voters love repeat MVPs, but the question is whether Jackson belongs in that list of multi-time champs or if he's a one-off winner. I lean toward the latter. Jackson is almost too valuable to his team for his own good.
Aaron Rodgers +1000
Only Brett Favre has ever won three straight MVPs, though only four guys had even gone back-to-back before Rodgers defied the odds.
The deck is stacked against a three-peat. Davante Adams is gone, and he was Rodgers' first, second, and third target in this offense. Nathaniel Hackett and Luke Getsy are big departures too. Rodgers could see a serious drop in efficiency without his terrific staff and star receiver.
On the other hand, if Rodgers does lead the Packers back to the top of the NFC even without Adams, it'll be hard to deny the narrative. Green Bay could be great again thanks to improved line play and a terrific defense, and Rodgers has won MVP in four of the five seasons in which he's won 12 games.
Rodgers is a tough call. If not for his back-to-back status, he'd be a clear top-two candidate, with value at this number. But voters consider history, and with the way the Packers have stumbled in the playoffs of late, would they really tie Rodgers with Manning atop the all-time MVP leaderboard?
Tom Brady +800
Brady was my preseason pick last year, and he was the betting favorite until the final weeks of the season. He led the league in attempts, completions, yards, and TDs and received 20% of the votes as runner-up.
Brady has received MVP votes in eight of 13 seasons when his team wins 12 games. Tampa is loaded and expected to contend at the top of the NFC, and you know voters would love to give Brady the "career achievement" award and a well-deserved fourth MVP if he's in the race.
Of course, that should have been true a year ago too, and it's tough to see Brady leading the league in every passing category again, especially with real worries on the offensive line. He has occasional clunkers now at his age — that cost him the MVP against the Saints in December — and has a brutal schedule to start the year: Cowboys, Saints, Packers, Chiefs.
No one will fault you for adding Brady to your MVP portfolio, but you shouldn't bet him at this number and absolutely cannot bet him before this gauntlet opening stretch.
Not Impossible But Not the Right Value Play
Matt Stafford +1500
Stafford has an easy MVP narrative after trading in his old phone he had for 12 years and loved every minute of, then enjoying immediate success with a Rams Super Bowl ring. What else is left, but an MVP trophy?
Stafford matched his career-high with 41 TDs and nearly 5000 yards, and the Rams return a loaded roster. The question is whether Stafford would get credit should the Rams contend again, and I'm not sure he would with Cooper Kupp racking up stats, Aaron Donald starring in defense, and Sean McVay orchestrating everything.
The Rams also have a couple brutal stretches — 49ers, Bucs, Cards, Saints, Chiefs midseason and Packers, Broncos, Chargers around the holidays — so that could be tough to survive, especially if this elbow injury lingers.
Joe Burrow +1200
Burrow became a star on Cincinnati's Super Bowl run, but the advanced metrics say he was a star all year and may already be a top-tier QB. With Ja'Marr Chase and the elite weapons at his disposal, Burrow and the Bengals could be this generation's Peyton Manning-led Colts, and Manning was a perennial MVP candidate.
Of course, Manning was also one of the greatest ever, and like Peyton, Burrow could be held back by average-at-best protection and defense. The coaching isn't helping either, and a tough opening stretch could be an adjustment with the new target on their backs. You shouldn't invest in Burrow at his peak.
Russell Wilson +1100
Wilson might be the biggest wildcard in the race. He's never had this strong a supporting cast on offense with a solid line, two great receivers, and a dynamic pair of backs. Nathaniel Hackett's scheme is the X factor. Remember, Hackett helped make Rodgers uber-efficient the last two years en route to MVP.
Denver has great defensive upside, and Wilson had won nine or more games every season til last. The Broncos could be great. But they're also the third best roster in a loaded division, and you need a lot to go right to cash this ticket, considering Wilson is 34 and has never received a single MVP vote.
If you do want to bet on Russ, you have to do it now. Wilson opens against two of the worst teams in the league, including a Monday Night return to Seattle, so he could be the MVP favorite by mid-September. He's a smart cash-out play if your book allows it. Just be careful if you stick around to the final six games: Ravens, Chiefs, Cards, Rams, Chiefs, Chargers. If the Broncos top the AFC after that gauntlet, Wilson will deserve the MVP.
Justin Herbert +1000
Herbert fits the profile of recent breakout MVPs who make The Leap. He's as talented as any QB in the league and is backed by one of the league's most talented improved rosters. Last fall, the Chargers took a step forward after overhauling the O-line. This year the defense should be very improved.
Herbert has plenty of weapons, and he'll have all the volume he needs to put up big numbers. He already had 38 TDs and over 5000 yards as a sophomore, and as aggressive as Brandon Staley is on fourth downs, you know Herbert will have plenty of chances for big moments.
The Chargers open against the Raiders and Chiefs before three easy ones, Monday night vs. Denver, then two more easy games. If the Chargers are the real deal and LA wins those first two, Herbert could lead this race from start to finish. But it'll be tough sledding all year in this brutal division.
I just can't buy at this number, basically pricing Herbert equal to more proven guys like Brady and Rodgers on better teams with softer schedules. The case is there, but the value is not. We'll have to wait for a better spot.
Grab a Nibble on This Long Shot
Trey Lance +5000
Lance also fits the profile as a sophomore breakout candidate. He's got a trio of great pass catchers, plus a super talented defense and an outstanding coaching staff. Kyle Shanahan consistently elevates his quarterbacks and makes them hyper-efficient, and he's never had anyone with Lance's talent.
This is a risk on a complete unknown, but that's why we're getting such a good price. But with the Niners opening against the Bears and Seahawks, that price won't last. Lance should look great early and get immediate buzz, and he fits the recent pattern of dual threat QB MVPs a la Newton and Jackson.
Lance is not the second most likely MVP winner, but he might be the best value on the board. I'd make his odds half this at most, and he's the one must-have long shot ticket entering the 2022 season.
The MVP Bet to Make Right Now
Patrick Mahomes +900
The final name shouldn't surprise you. The MVP case for Mahomes is so obvious it's almost easy to forget. He's the league's best player on perhaps the best team, with one of the best offensive lines on the league's best offense playing for the league's best coaching staff.
Mahomes has started four seasons and won at least 12 games every time. He finished top-three in EPA all four times, and his Chiefs finished top-two in Offensive DVOA all four too. From the moment Mahomes became an NFL starter, his presence guaranteed success, more than any other player.
That's value, and this year there's real narrative. Like Rodgers, Mahomes lost his stud receiver, Tyreek Hill. If the Chiefs just keep whirring even without Cheetah and Kansas City sits near the top of the league yet again, how can voters do anything but give Mahomes supreme credit?
Mahomes is the only one-time MVP over the last 15 years who received votes in another season. Mahomes is so good that he's always in the mix, he's absolutely a future multi-time MVP, and he's "due" after not winning one the last few seasons. Both Rodgers and Brady had a few gap years after their first MVPs too. Voters get tired of what works and turn to new shiny things but eventually always come back to greatness.
It won't be easy. The Chiefs play the Bills, Rams, 49ers, Bengals, Colts and Cardinals, plus two games each against the Chargers, Broncos and Raiders. MVPs need a lot of wins. But all Mahomes does is win. He's 58-16 lifetime, a 13.3-win pace — and that includes his sterling 8-3 postseason record and four consecutive AFC Championship Game berths.
Patrick Mahomes is the league's best player on the best team and should enter every season as the MVP favorite until proven otherwise. He's my preseason favorite, and I wouldn't price him any longer than +400 entering the year. He's the one must-bet MVP candidate entering the 2022 season.