NFL MVP Race

Michael Salfino
December 7, 2023 8:34 AM

There was a big shakeup with the MVP odds in the NFL following Week 13.

Brock Purdy is now the consensus favorite, followed closely by Dak Prescott and Jalen Hurts.

The Week 14 schedule is making another reset likely come Monday.

It’s no surprise that QBs are dominating the field of candidates.

They have won the last 10 awards. Eight have been the No. 1 seed in their conference (the exceptions, 2016 Matt Ryan and 2014 Aaron Rodgers were No. 2 seeds).

So team strength seems to be the strongest predictor, followed by total touchdowns.

Right now the leaders for the conference top seed are Tua Tagovailoa and Lamar Jackson, tied in the AFC, and Jalen Hurts is still in the NFC. Total touchdowns are Tagovailoa 24, Jackson 18, Hurts 31.

Hurts has 10 rushing TDs largely due to the Tush Push, a play that certainly has its detractors, which could factor into the voting.

Efficiency-wise, Tagovailoa arguably fits the bill more so than Hurts but has no signature wins as of yet. He also was better in most of the key efficiency metrics last year (albeit slightly).

Top Skill Players Hurt A QB Candidacy

Moving on to the No. 2 seeds opens things up for Purdy, who remains in contention for the No. 1 seed.

Purdy’s dominating historically in efficiency, with a yards per pass attempt of 9.6, the second-highest mark this century behind Kurt Warner (2000 Rams).

Warner only played 11 games that year and the MVP was his RB teammate, Marshall Faulk.

This brings us to Purdy’s major problem. The MVP of the team if you polled the players might not be Purdy. I

n fact, it probably would be RB Christian McCaffrey, whose pace is 2,070 scrimmage yards and 24 total touchdowns.

In history, 13 RBs have topped 2,000 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns and three have won the MVP (23%).

That’s way better than the 0% chance we give RBs in today’s game. McCaffrey is going to pull votes from Purdy.

Yes, 2001 Kurt Warner did overcome Marshall Faulk having a 2023 McCaffrey-type of year.

But Warner led the NFL in passing TDs and passing yards. Purdy won’t do that.

But Purdy is doing enough to wreck any chance McCaffrey has of winning.

Tagovailoa similarly may not win the MVP award for his team, raising the question of how he then can be the MVP of the league.

Tyreek Hill is having a historic WR season, but no wideout has ever won the award. Still, as with Purdy and the Niners, many voters could view the Dolphins offense as too big for any QB to fail.

Lamar Jackson is poised to be a No. 1 seed but does not remotely have the supporting numbers to win the MVP.

Prescott’s Fate Likely Decided Sunday Night

Prescott though has 28 combined passing and rushing TDs, has limited turnovers, and played with the efficiency that voters prize.

He leads the league in passing TDs, which is big.

But no division loser has won in recent years. The last QB to be named MVP while failing to win his division was Peyton Manning in 2008.

Prescott’s division title odds can improve dramatically with a win Sunday night against Hurts’ Eagles.

A loss will greatly lengthen his odds by making it virtually impossible for the Cowboys to win the NFC East.

Further down the list, we have C.J. Stroud and Josh Allen, at 2800-to-1 and 3300-to-1, respectively. Is there any value here?

Stroud, after all, could still win his AFC South division.

However, it’s looking like Trevor Lawrence (ankle) could miss only one week.

The Jaguars and Colts are not strong teams and the Texans play the Colts (they’ve split with Jacksonville).

The Texans could be a division winner, though it’s unlikely.

Stroud has 23 total touchdowns and leads the NFL in passing yards, seemingly important to voters (and something no rookie has ever done).

Stroud has the lowest interception rate among QBs with at least 200 attempts. There is no other player on the Texans who can lay claim to being more valuable than Stroud.

They’ve already beaten their over/under of 6.5 wins and are coming off a 3-13-1 record.

Stroud is the most surprising player on the most surprising team (+520 to make the playoffs in the preseason and +800 to win the division).

So there is a narrative here.

Stroud Is Driving Houston’s Bus

Stroud also does very well in models that seek to put yards per pass attempt in the context of air yards.

In other words, highlights quarterbacks who are most responsible for their passing yards (because these yards are less dependent on yards after catch by the receivers).

Stroud, however, has an award the voters can give him besides the MVP, the Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Consider how pitchers are major long-shots to win the baseball MVP even when they objectively have the most value because voters feel pitchers have the Cy Young Award to themselves.

That leaves us with Josh Allen among remotely plausible candidates.

Allen has 33 combined passing and rushing TDs, a very strong argument.

But he has 13 picks.

That’s nearly as disqualifying as his 6-6 record, largely a product of bad luck in close games but at least partially attributable to Allen’s propensity for picks.

So Allen’s odds do seem quite long given the Bills have virtually no chance to host a playoff game.

While the MVP seems a muddled mess at the moment, the Eagles-Cowboys game will change all this.

The game is being billed as a division-deciding game but we have seen that can also decide the league MVP, too.