The 2023-24 NFL MVP conversation has been a roller coaster.
Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott were all considered the betting favorite at one point in time, but current favorite Brock Purdy is starting to pull away from the pack.
San Francisco’s quarterback has passed for almost 4,000 yards with 29 touchdowns for a dominant Niners team that’s averaging 34.5 points in six consecutive victories since their bye week.
Only two players — Allen and Hurts — are responsible for more scores.
The two knocks on Purdy from pundits are that he has a loaded supporting cast, and when said cast was banged up, San Francisco suffered three straight losses. Deebo Samuel and Trent Williams both got hurt against Cleveland, and they missed the ensuing losses to Minnesota and Cincinnati.
At full strength, though, nobody has touched the Niners.
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Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens are motoring right along despite several offensive setbacks this year. Starting running back J.K. Dobbins tore his Achilles in the opener, star tight end Mark Andrews suffered a season-ending injury in Week 11 and left tackle Ronnie Staley missed four games.
Luckily, the Ravens have Lamar Jackson.
In a perfect world, Jackson will finish with around 4,700 yards of total offense for a team that clinches the AFC’s No. 1 overall seed. And while his touchdown numbers aren’t anything special, he’s clearly the most valuable piece to Baltimore’s very successful puzzle.
It’s only fitting that Jackson and Purdy meet on Christmas night on national television in what could be an eye-opener for MVP voters. Imagine how the betting market would shift if Jackson racks up four touchdowns and Baltimore wins.
I’m sure some people somewhere are debating whether they should make a Ravens moneyline wager or bet Jackson to win the MVP.
“I don’t want to advocate for the Ravens moneyline this week because it’s a tricky spot,” professional bettor Adam Chernoff told FOX Sports. “But I don’t know if Lamar Jackson has a viable MVP case, either.
“Purdy has become the rightful favorite, and there’s no question the Christmas Day game will probably dictate who ends up getting it. But this is as tough as an MVP season to call and try and figure out which way these voters are going to go. It could go so many ways.
“It’s a cop-out answer, but I just don’t know how anybody can have any confidence in betting on this MVP market.”
It’s clearly Purdy’s award to lose at this point, but I refuse to lay -200 or higher when I could’ve bet him 20/1 five weeks ago.
The true sleeper in the race is Purdy’s teammate and all-world running back Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey has 1,799 all-purpose yards and 20 total touchdowns with three games left on the schedule.
Even with conservative projections, a healthy McCaffrey should finish with 2,100 yards and 22 touchdowns. That would put him in the same bandwidth as Adrian Peterson (2,311 total yards, 13 TDs in 2012), the last non-quarterback to bring home the MVP over a decade ago.
He’s as high as 12-1 at FanDuel, and I’ve certainly made worse bets.
At the end of the day, though, you’re handicapping voters and narratives. And we all know voters love a great story. Is there anything more sensational than the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft winning the 2023 Most Valuable Player?
Sam Panayotovich is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and NESN. He previously worked for WGN Radio, NBC Sports and VSiN. He’ll probably pick against your favorite team. Follow him on Twitter @spshoot.
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