Tua Tagovailoa New NFL MVP Favorite Over Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen

Tua Tagovailoa New NFL MVP Favorite Over Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen article feature image

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Tua Tagovailoa has taken the mantle as the NFL MVP favorite, leapfrogging Patrick Mahomes after a 24-17 victory over the Patriots on Sunday Night Football.

It's a far cry from earlier this year, when Tagovailoa mulled retirement after three concussions, one of which knocked him out of a playoff game and cast serious doubts about his long-term health.

Tagovailoa comfortably leads the league in adjusted Expected Points Per Attempt per play (Adj. EPA/play) and EPA + Completion Percentage Over Expected (CPOE) composite — two advanced metrics that are fantastic predictors for MVPs in years past.

Over the last decade, every MVP but one finished the season top-two in Adj. EPA/play. Seven of the 10 finished No. 1. The same goes for EPA + CPOE.

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The Chiefs offense, meanwhile, has looked lackluster. Mahomes had been the preseason MVP favorite on account of last season's postseason heroics, but he's stumbled out the gate — relatively speaking.

He's ranked 15th in EPA + CPOE, behind the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Russell Wilson, Jared Goff and Baker Mayfield.

You may be able to chalk it up to the rest of Mahomes' offensive unit, which fumbled four times on Sunday in a 17-9 victory over the Jaguars. And don't forget about Kadarius Toney's night during a Week 1 loss against the Lions.

But in the end, Mahomes takes the plurality of responsibilities for any offensive shortcomings and has a few picks to show for it. Plus, he had plenty of chances to pull out that Week 1 win before faltering.

At FanDuel, BetMGM and DraftKings, Tagovailoa is the favorite to varying degrees. FanDuel prices the Dolphins QB at +500 relative to Mahomes' +600. BetMGM prices Tagovailoa at +500 relative to Mahomes' +550. And DraftKings has market-best prices for Tagovailoa at +600 and Mahomes at +700.

Odds courtesy of BetMGM as of Monday morning.

The keys to winning MVP are straightforward: You need to be a quarterback, you need to put up gaudy numbers, your team needs to post 13 or 14 wins and the markets typically love repeat winners.

What do gaudy numbers mean? Over the last 15 seasons, MVP winners have averaged about 285 yards and 2.5 touchdowns per game. Those numbers are even more buoyed if you take out Lamar Jackson and Cam Newton, who racked up numbers on the ground.

And couple that with a win rate of about 14.1 games over a 17-game season. That's, on average, how the last 15 quarterback MVPs (201-41, 83.1 win %) have fared in the regular season. These MVPs have finished as the No. 1 seed 12 of the 15 times, with two times as a No. 2 seed. The only winner outside of these metrics is Peyton Manning in 2008, which may have been a historically bad win. 

And unless there's an absolutely standout candidate, this market favors repeat winners. It's not like the NBA, where being the new guy in town helps.

Over two games, Tagovailoa makes sense as the favorite. But injuries loom large, and the NFL MVP odds market waffles week-to-week based on overreactions to individual games. We're only through two games, so the sample sizes on Adj. EPA/play and EPA + CPOE, too, are incredibly small.

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