With 12 weeks down, we're two-thirds of the way through the NFL season, and the MVP race has finally cleared up. Here are current odds of the six players at +1000 or lower, courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook:
- Eagles QB Jalen Hurts (+170)
- Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (+450)
- Ravens QB Lamar Jackson (+600)
- 49ers QB Brock Purdy (+650)
- Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (+700)
- Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa (+900)
This is the most clarity we've had in the MVP race at any point. It helps that Hurts is coming off a five-touchdown (three passing, two rushing) performance in a 37-34 win over the Bills that moved the Eagles to 10-1. No other player has had +200 or shorter odds at any point this season.
But the race could look very different in six weeks. Six weeks ago, in fact, Mahomes and Tagovailoa were leading the way with Josh Allen behind them.
Is Hurts' current spot at the top of the betting market justified? Sure, it helps to be the quarterback on the league's best team, but the MVP argument is more nuanced than that. Here are six categories beyond the surface-level numbers -- and how the players listed above have performed in them -- that reveal more about the six-man race.
1. The overview: Expected points added per dropback
This is an all-encompassing measure of how much a quarterback adds to his team's chances to win every time he drops back. I love this stat because it also takes situation into account. For example, if a player throws an interception on fourth-and-10 on a late desperation pass deep in his own territory, it's less damaging than him throwing an interception on first-and-goal. His team wasn't expected to score in the first scenario. It was expected to score in the second. Not all plays -- good or bad -- are created equal.
Here's where the candidates rank:
|EPA per dropback
Purdy having a massive lead makes sense. He also leads the league in completion percentage and yards per attempt. He is very, very good at getting the ball into the hands of his terrific group of playmakers, a fact that both helps and hurts his MVP argument. It's not Purdy's fault he's teammates with Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle and has Kyle Shanahan pulling the strings in a quarterback-friendly offense. But those advantages definitely play a role in elevating the player.
On the other end of the list, Jackson's downfall has been negative plays. Nearly 11% of his plays this season have been negative plays, which ranks 22nd league-wide. Those negative plays -- sacks, turnovers, etc. -- are a killer when it comes to expected points added.
2. Staying on track: Success rate
This is a measure of down-to-down success. Whereas long touchdowns on late downs are hugely valuable in expected points added, success rate essentially says a "successful" play on first or second down (gaining at least half the yards needed for a first down) counts the same as a "successful" play on third or fourth down (gaining a first down).
This is really representative of what sets these six players apart, as they all rank in the top nine. So there's not a ton to parse out here. Purdy and Mahomes do a slightly better job keeping their offenses on schedule, while Hurts, Prescott and Jackson are more late-down playmakers. But again, all six are very, very good, and the differences are miniscule.
3. Clutch play: EPA per dropback in clutch situations
We're defining "clutch" here as after halftime and within one score. This is a good mix of bringing in MVP-worthy moments while also keeping the overall management of key, game-deciding scenarios in mind.
|EPA per dropback in clutch situations
Here is the first true statistical dent in Purdy's armor. We may not even be having this discussion if Purdy hadn't produced five turnovers in this exact scenario during San Francisco's shocking three-game losing streak. Fair or not, we remember the bad moments in big spots -- even if they are few and far between -- more than we do the great moments that lead to blowouts.
Conversely, Tagovailoa, Prescott and especially Hurts shine in these moments. The Dolphins and Cowboys have produced so many blowouts that they're not in these situations much, but when they are, they've been great. Hurts, meanwhile, has been in these situations a ton. Only Sam Howell (169 dropbacks) and Mahomes (157) have more dropbacks than Hurts' 156 in these "clutch" situations. As such, Hurts' total expected points added in these situations is by far the most of the six players in the group. And that leads us to our next "clutch" stat ...
4. MVP moments: Game-winning drives
This one's straightforward: drives in the fourth quarter or overtime that put the winning team ahead for the final time.
Hurts is head and shoulders above his peers here, tied with Russell Wilson and Desmond Ridder(!) for the most game-winning drives in the league. The Eagles are 7-1 in one-score games this season, tied with the Steelers for the best record in the league. Time and time again, Hurts has made huge plays to either win games or cut into deficits. Sunday alone, he had two touchdowns to cut the deficit to three, one go-ahead touchdown and the game-winning touchdown against Buffalo. That's a season's worth of clutch plays in one afternoon.
Conversely, Jackson and Purdy once again find themselves at the bottom here. There still could be clutch moments to come, but they're missing on their MVP resume for now.
5. Recent impressions: Who's playing the best now?
Prescott is playing some ridiculous football right now, and we can use basic numbers here. Since Week 8:
|TD accounted for
|Yards per attempt
|Total yards per game
It's Prescott by a landslide, which brings us to our last category.
6. Looking ahead: Last chances to make moves
Down the stretch, players will have their final chances to make lasting impressions on their seasons. Here are key games where players could make big leaps or fall back:
- Hurts: Week 13 vs. 49ers, Week 14 at Cowboys
- Mahomes: Week 14 vs. Bills, Week 18 at Chargers
- Jackson: Week 15 at Jaguars, Week 16 at 49ers, Week 17 vs. Dolphins, Week 18 vs. Steelers
- Purdy: Week 13 at Eagles, Week 16 vs. Ravens
- Prescott: Week 14 vs. Eagles, Week 15 at Bills, Week 16 at Dolphins
- Tagovailoa: Week 16 vs. Cowboys, Week 17 at Ravens, Week 18 vs. Bills
Is there a sleeper?
At 6-6, the Bills are outside the playoff picture. They have a brutal schedule down the stretch. They also have Josh Allen, who just had one of the greatest individual performances of the season (albeit in a loss) against the Eagles. This season, Allen ranks ...
- First in success rate
- First in touchdowns accounted for
- Fourth in EPA per dropback
He has been marvelous. Yes, there have been too many turnovers, but that's what you get with Allen. You also get Superman, MVP-worthy performances. The Bills have given us no reason to believe they can conquer this brutal closing stretch -- they're 2-6 in single-possession games -- but if they can somehow rally and make the postseason, it'll be because Allen (+4500 odds right now) plays at an MVP level. Remember, six games is a lot of time to change the narrative.
If the season ended today (which it doesn't) and I had an MVP vote (which I don't), I'd vote for Hurts. The clutch plays. The excellence against the league's best teams. The fact that he's the quarterback on the league's best team. Hurts has been awesome and is a thoroughly deserving MVP ... so far.