2022 Super Bowl MVP Predictions: How Ja’Marr Chase, Odell Beckham, Von Miller, 10 More Players Could Win It
Getty Images. Pictured: Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase, Rams WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Super Bowl LVI is finally (almost) here after the longest regular season in NFL history, and that means it will soon be time to crown the 2022 Super Bowl MVP. It’s one of the most prestigious awards in the sport, but who is most likely to win it this Sunday?
I whittled the list of most likely candidates between the Rams and Bengals down to 13 players, and we’ll make the case for each below, featuring what type of performance they would likely need to win it. But first, let’s start by taking a look at what we’ve learned from the past 55 Super Bowls.
1. It’s a quarterback league, and Super Bowl MVP is increasingly a QB award. QBs have won Super Bowl MVP 31 times in 55 games. That’s 56% of the time, and even more frequent lately at nine of the last 12 Super Bowls — a 75% hit rate on the league’s most important position. The QBs are favorites for a reason.
2. That leaves 25 non-QB MVPs in 55 Super Bowls, including co-defensive MVPs in 1977. Among those non-QB winners were seven running backs, eight wide receivers and 10 defensive players. The 10 defenders include four linebackers, three defensive linemen, two safeties and a cornerback. If a quarterback doesn’t win it, this thing is wide open.
3. The Super Bowl MVP will come from the winning team. Only Chuck Howley back in Super Bowl V was named Super Bowl MVP in a losing effort to conclude the 1970 season, and voters are now instructed to choose someone from the winning side.
4. How is the Super Bowl MVP chosen? Largely by 16 media members. Those 16 writers and broadcasters comprise 80% of the vote, so each of their votes is worth 5% of the total. The remaining 20% of the vote comes from a fan tally. Yes, that means just 11 media members comprise a voting majority.
So that’s how the Super Bowl MVP is awarded. It goes to a quarterback more than half the time and almost always a winning player, but there are just enough “other” winners to make some of these long shots on the board very juicy.
So now that we know who typically wins Super Bowl MVP, what would it take for any one of the 13 key players on the Rams and Bengals to take home the trophy on Super Bowl Sunday? Let’s paint the picture for every candidate.
Note: Odds for each player are the best available as of writing. Additionally, NFL seasons and the years associated with them are determined by the year in which the regular season began despite the postseason concluding in the subsequent calendar year. Super Bowl years mentioned below refer to that NFL season, not the year in which the game actually took place. For example, Super Bowl LVI is officially the 2021 Super Bowl.
Super Bowl MVP Candidates
Super Bowl MVP Predictions
Rams QB Matthew Stafford (+125)
Matthew Stafford is the quarterback for the 4.5-point favorite Rams, so naturally, he’s the MVP favorite too (check real-time NFL odds here). The Rams are -190 favorites right now, implying a 65.5% chance of victory. At +125, Stafford should win MVP 44.5% of the time. That means the books are giving Stafford a 68% chance of taking home the MVP if the Rams win the Super Bowl.
So how does Stafford win it? Pretty much by doing what he’s done throughout the playoffs and regular season. The former No. 1 pick has multiple-touchdown performances in 16 of his 20 games this season — not to mention 11 with at least three scores. That includes each of his last two playoff games, thanks to a QB-sneak TD in both. He’s also thrown for 300 yards or more in nine games, including each of the last two.
If the Rams win and Stafford has a typically big game with 300 yards and two or three scores, he’ll have a strong MVP case. It would help if he spreads the ball around a bit, and he’ll want to avoid turnovers. Stafford led the league in interceptions and pick-sixes this year, with at least one pick in 12 of his 20 games.
Avoid turnovers, compile big yardage and find the end zone a couple times in a Rams victory and Stafford will have an excellent shot at hoisting the MVP award.
Bengals QB Joe Burrow (+225)
If the Bengals win, Joe Burrow will be a heavy MVP favorite. Cincinnati is +165 on the moneyline, implying a 37.7% chance of victory. With Burrow’s MVP odds at +225 implying a 30.8% win rate, Burrow would have to win MVP in 81.5% of all Bengals victories for this to be a profitable angle. That’s pretty steep, but Burrow has defied odds throughout these playoffs already.
Last year’s No. 1 pick has played hero late for the Bengals, who have compiled seven one-score victories this season — that includes all three playoff wins. Cincinnati probably won’t win big, and that means Burrow may need to be on the field late, driving the underdog Bengals down the field and orchestrating the win — maybe even another comeback victory.
Burrow has thrown multiple touchdowns in five of the last seven games and 13 of 19 overall, and he has six games of 348 or more passing yards. He can put up huge numbers once the passing game starts clicking, and he showed off his legs in last week’s win too.
If Burrow keeps his late-down magic alive by evading a few sacks and coming through in the clutch, puts up a big yardage total with a couple scores, and leads the Bengals to a late victory, he could become one of the youngest Super Bowl MVP winners ever as a new league star is born.
Rams WR Cooper Kupp (+600)
Among non-quarterbacks, Cooper Kupp is a significant MVP favorite, and that makes sense for a guy who could be looking at regular-season MVP votes.
Kupp had one of the biggest seasons for a receiver in NFL history. He led the league in all three receiving categories with 145 catches, 1,947 yards and 16 TDs, not to mention he was virtually unstoppable for much of the year. Kupp scored a touchdown in 14 of his 20 games and had multiple TDs six times. He had at least 118 receiving yards in half his games and at least 92 in all but two of them, as well as at least nine catches in more than half of his games.
Kupp has put up preposterous numbers all season and looks set to win Offensive Player of the Year, so Super Bowl MVP would just be the icing on the cake. For Kupp to win, he needs the Rams offense to keep flowing entirely through him, just like it did the last two games. Against the Bucs, Kupp had nine catches for 183 yards and a TD. Against the 49ers, it was 11 for 142 and two scores, plus countless key third-down conversions all game.
Kupp has been uncoverable most of the season, and if he has even an average game by his standards, that would mean nine catches for 118 yards. Even without a score, that puts his numbers right in line with 2018 Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman or 2004 Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch as key volume possession receivers to win the award — and note the QB throwing it to them who didn’t win it, Tom Brady.
Add in a few more catches or a TD and Kupp would have a great chance of winning MVP in a Rams victory. And if he comes anywhere close to Jerry Rice’s 11 catches for 215 yards in the 1988 Super Bowl, it’ll be all she wrote.
Rams DT Aaron Donald (+1600)
If a defender wins Super Bowl MVP, the early money is on Aaron Donald. The future Hall of Famer and three-time Defensive Player of the Year is the best defender of this generation. He’s said himself that winning a Super Bowl is the final accomplishment he’s yet to add to his storied career.
Donald could have a huge game as the face of a tough D with the league’s No. 1 Pass Rush Win Rate against a porous Bengals line that gave up a franchise-record amount of sacks this season, including nine two weeks ago against the Titans. If the Rams win with a dominant defensive performance and Donald lives in Cincinnati’s backfield all game, could he win MVP as something of a lifetime achievement award?
It might be difficult. Voters still typically fall back on counting numbers and flashy plays, and it’ll be tough for Donald to get those as a defensive tackle. QB hurries and pressures are only so sexy, and not necessarily available to media members who have to vote before the game ends, nor to fans voting at home. This is a rushed process, and there’s no time for voters to coalesce around a niche candidate like a defensive tackle.
Donald does lead the team with 12.5 sacks and four forced fumbles, but that still averages out to under one “highlight” play per game. Unless he gets a couple of those plays or a strip-sack TD, it’ll be tough for him to justify this price at +1600.
The hope for Donald backers might be 1985 Super Bowl MVP Richard Dent, who had 1.5 sacks and won MVP as the face of a dominant defense despite teammate Otis Wilson recording two sacks and Reggie Phillips having a pick six. Ray Lewis in 2000 could be another template. Lewis had no sacks or turnovers but was the face of a generational Ravens defense that had four interceptions and a pick six.
Donald backers should hope for an ugly offensive game and a dominant Rams defensive performance, one in which voters feel compelled to recognize the L.A. defense and coalesce around the best player on the team.
Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase (+1800)
No rookie has ever won Super Bowl MVP, but no rookie has ever had the sort of season Ja’Marr Chase had either. Chase had 81 catches for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns — not the mention the 279 receiving yards he’s already recorded in the playoffs. He also had two 200-yard games this season, something no rookie had ever done before — not even Jerry Rice or Randy Moss.
If Chase explodes again and Mosses a defender or two along the way for spectacular grabs, he could take over this game. Just like he did with 11 catches for 266 yards and three scores against the Chiefs in the regular season. Chase has surpassed 100 yards in four of his last five games (not counting Week 18). If he does that and adds a TD in a win, he’ll be in the mix.
Rams WR Odell Beckham Jr. (+2800)
If the whole world knows the Rams offense flows through Cooper Kupp, the Bengals probably do too. Cincinnati has actually been terrific against opposing WR1s, sixth-best in the NFL by Football Outsiders’ DVOA. But the Bengals ranked 27th this season against WR2s. Is that Odell Beckham Jr.’s music?!
If the Bengals focus too much on stopping Kupp, that could leave OBJ in single coverage all game and he could feast on a beatable secondary. Beckham has a TD in six of 11 Rams games and is coming off his biggest game as a Ram. He also has the physical ability to make one of those spectacular OBJ catches. If he does that in a huge moment, especially for a late winning TD, he could be the Rams’ version of Santonio Holmes in the 2008 Super Bowl and win MVP.
Rams RB Cam Akers (+3500)
As surprising as it is to see the Bengals in the Super Bowl, it may be even more shocking to see Cam Akers out there. Akers tore his Achilles on July 20, just 208 days before the Super Bowl. That sort of injury typically takes a full year of rehab and can derail entire careers, so few players have more of a made-for-Hollywood story than Akers on Sunday.
Now that he’s shaken off the rust and had an extra week off, Akers could see his biggest snap count and workload of the season. The Bengals run defense is soft with stud run stuffer Larry Ogunjobi out. If Akers gets to 100 combined yards and adds four or five catches underneath the D with Tyler Higbee out, he could pay off Sean McVay’s faith. Give him the clinching TD and the storybook ending would pretty much write itself.
Bengals RB Joe Mixon (+4500)
Joe Mixon has been a workhorse this season, and the Bengals remain heavily committed to the running game. Cincinnati should run early and often to help the offensive line and keep a dangerous Rams pass rush at bay. If Mixon finds holes, he could have a throwback game with 25 touches for 100 yards. He also has 26 catches his last five games and could be dangerous out of the backfield against a Rams team that’s poor at defending RBs.
The Bengals love to run near the goal line, and Mixon had five games this season with multiple TDs, running for 120 yards or more in two of those. No RB has won MVP since Terrell Davis in the 1997 Super Bowl, but a couple scores and 100 yards for Mixon would give him a throwback statline similar to TD or Emmitt Smith (1993).
Bengals WR Tee Higgins (+5000)
Don’t forget about that other star Bengals receiver. Tee Higgins was the guy coming into the season, and he’s had seven games this year with 96 or more yards. Higgins is also a big red-zone target. He has the ability to have a big game, especially if the Rams sic Jalen Ramsey on Chase for most of the game and leave Higgins to roam free.
Higgins has the ability to put up a big line, and his size makes him a great red-zone target — making him a threat for a key TD late. If the game goes under and the expected stars are quiet, maybe he could be the Bengals’ version of Hines Ward with a clinching TD and a handful of big plays in the 2007 Super Bowl.
Rams LB Von Miller (+5000)
Von Miller didn’t record a sack last week, but he had one in six straight Rams games before that and finished with at least one sack in 10 of 18 games this season. The Bengals are weak on the offensive line and will surely tilt inward to try to slow down Aaron Donald. That could leave Miller one-on-one rushing the passer much of the game, and he has the talent to make a game-breaking play.
Miller actually won Super Bowl MVP already in 2015 with a monster game, recording 2.5 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles, both of which turned into quick TDs in a big Denver win. Miller was a key midseason Rams acquisition, and he has the sort of star ability to single-handedly change the entire game with two or three big plays. Could he be the first defender ever to win MVP twice?
Bengals DE Trey Hendrickson (+10000)
If you’re looking for Cincinnati’s most likely defender to change the game with a few big plays, it’s almost certainly Trey Hendrickson. He had 14 sacks for the Bengals — nearly twice any teammate — and a huge Hendrickson game against ailing LT Andrew Whitworth could swing the entire game in Cincinnati’s favor.
We know from last year’s Super Bowl that no QB looks the same under pressure all game. Hendrickson is the key pressure man for the Bengals. If he puts Matthew Stafford under pressure all game and is part of a few key sacks or rushed interceptions, he could play hero for this surprising Bengals defense.
Bengals PK Evan McPherson (+15000)
You might think it sounds crazy for a kicker to win Super Bowl MVP, but it’s been a wild and unexpected season, and let’s not forget that a kicker has won the actual regular-season MVP before, so you never know with this stuff.
The rookie McPherson has been absolute nails for Cincinnati all season. He’s a perfect 12-for-12 this postseason with four makes each in all three playoff games, and Zac Taylor has coached conservatively and settled for field goals. If the Bengals win a close one, it could come down to a McPherson kick. If he stays perfect for the playoffs, breaks Adam Vinatieri’s record of 14 makes in a single postseason, and hits the game winner in something like a 19-17 victory, McPherson could be a shock MVP winner.
Bengals S Jessie Bates (+20000)
If you want a crazy dart throw MVP, consider Bengals safety Jessie Bates. He’s the young star on this defense and one of the few players whose been around through a few ugly seasons to get to this great run, so he’s a great story.
Remember, Matthew Stafford led the league in interceptions and pick-sixes this season, and his 27 career pick-sixes are tied for fourth-most all time. We’ve seen him make crippling mistakes his entire career at the worst times and game-changing interceptions have directly led to three of the last five defensive Super Bowl MVPs (2013 Malcolm Smith, 2002 Dexter Jackson, 1995 Larry Brown).
If the Bengals pull the upset, it’ll likely mean Cincinnati forcing Stafford into some bad decisions and a turnover or two. Opponents are 18-6 lifetime against Stafford when he throws a pick-six, including 3-1 this season. Bates has 10 career interceptions and one pick-six, and he returned an interception 65 yards earlier this year. He’s the guy roaming center field à la Jaquiski Tartt, and Bates won’t drop it. If he picks off an errant Stafford pass and takes it to the house, it could change the entire Super Bowl — and win Bates the MVP.