Right now, the 2021 NFL MVP pitch is set with clear favorites. But as we learned from last year’s end-of-season flyovers, a lot can change in terms of the order for the top contenders in the final matches.
Tom Brady of the Buccaneers and Aaron Rodgers of the Packers made it a two quarterback run before Week 15 and could actually make history by the end of the season. They are two of six players in NFL history to win three MVP awards, and there has never been a year in NFL, MLB, NBA, or NHL history where triple MVPs finished 1-2 by voting for the prize. But even if Brady and Rodgers seem to be the first, this race has many deserving stars.
We asked a group of analysts – Stephania Bell, Matt Bowen, Mike Clay, Courtney Cronin, Dan Graziano, Jeremy Fowler, Kevin Seifert, Field Yates and Seth Walder – to vote for the best players in the MVP race right now. . Then we used those 10 sets of rankings to come up with our top five candidates overall, using the Heisman Trophy scaling for each ranking, to determine how the field ranks up to that point. ESPN analysis writer Seth Walder also weighs in on an under-the-radar MVP-caliber player, and ESPN analyst Chalk Doug Kezirian identifies his best bet for the MVP yet.
With 26 teams still alive in the NFL playoff table, the MVP race is heading to an exciting end, with contenders from all over trying to make one last push for the league’s most prestigious award. Here is an overview of the progress of the last four weeks of the regular season.
Note: All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook.
Top five | Just missed
Under the radar | Value bet
Statistics 2021: 4,134 passing yards, 38 total touchdowns, 10 INT, 67.7 QBR
Brady is currently the overwhelming favorite to win the MVP (-180) while leading the NFL in passing yards, completed passes and touchdowns. The 44-year-old QB has Tampa Bay jockey with Green Bay and Arizona for the NFC No.1 seed, which would almost certainly make him a lock to run away with his fourth MVP award. In a 33-27 win over Buffalo, Brady threw his first overtime touchdown since 2003 and led the longest OT drive (94 yards) in more than two decades, according to the Elias sports bureau. Brady also added two more career goals to his treasure, becoming the league’s all-time scoring leader and throwing his 700th career touchdown in the win over the Bills.
His 2021 season has been nothing short of spectacular. Brady is now approaching the second 5,000-yard season of his career and is set to end the year as the NFL leader in passing yards for the fourth time in his career.
Statistics 2021: 3,219 passing yards, 30 total touchdowns, 4 INT, 64.9 QBR
This is familiar territory for Rodgers, whose rise to power at the end of the 2020 season saw him supplant Patrick Mahomes as the frontrunner and win his third MVP award. The Packers aren’t the same offensive monster they have been in years before, but Rodgers is warming up at the right time, despite a toe injury that only gets worse.
The Green Bay QB had to overcome injuries and absences on both sides of the ball to lead his side to a 10-3 record and so far control the NFC No.1 seed, following the loss of the Cardinals Monday night. In a three-game streak against the Vikings, Rams and Bears, Rodgers threw 10 touchdowns and no interceptions and eclipsed 1,000 passing yards. In that same stretch, Green Bay has scored over 30 points in three straight games for the first time this season. Rodgers has +600 to win the MVP.
Statistics 2021: 2,782 passing yards, 267 rushing yards, 24 total touchdowns, 9 INT, 61.5 QBR
The Cardinals were the most prominent team in football at one point this season, thanks in large part to Murray’s magic on the pitch. The former favorite had to seize his MVP moment during Monday Night Football against the Rams to stay in the thick of the game after falling behind when he missed three games with an ankle injury. It was always going to be an uphill battle for him to win the award if he only played 15 games, and the kind of performance he delivered against the Rams just wasn’t good enough.
Murray racked up a bunch of yards with little to show against Los Angeles, posting 383 yards in the air and 61 rushing. Those 444 total yards are the third in NFL history without touchdowns, according to the Elias Athletic Bureau. The Rams scored after each of Murray’s two interceptions on a night where he notched his lowest completion percentage of the year (65.3%). Murray currently has +1500 to win the MVP title.
Statistics 2021: 3,822 passing yards, 268 rushing yards, 32 total touchdowns, 11 INT, 67.5 QBR
Someone who came out of week 14 with an MVP moment? The 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year. Herbert threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Guyton in the second quarter of a Giants loss, the longest throw of his career in overhead yards (56). Despite the absence of wide receiver Keenan Allen, Herbert completed 23 of 31 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns and did not return the ball.
Herbert is third in the league in passing yards (3,822) and tied for second in passing touchdowns (30). After two losing seasons, the Chargers are 8-5 and pursue a division title mainly because of Herbert’s big game. He has a perfect opportunity to move higher on the list if he puts in another solid performance Thursday night in prime time, as Los Angeles look to go 2-0 against the Chiefs. Herbert has +1,600 to win the MVP.
Statistics 2021: 3,524 passing yards, 531 rushing yards, 32 total touchdowns, 11 INT, 57.5 QBR
Allen remained in the top five here after ushering in a near comeback against Tampa Bay after falling 24-3 at halftime. He also became the youngest player in NFL history with 300 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in one game.
Still, there’s a lot of distance between the Buffalo quarterback and Brady and Rodgers’ position. With the pace he’s had in 13 games, Allen likely won’t end up near where he was statistically last year. The Bills will likely need to win and qualify for the playoffs, due to his spectacular play, for Allen to make a huge leap. He is currently at +2500 to win.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Mahomes hasn’t posted good numbers during Kansas City’s six-game winning streak – except for the two games he played against the Raiders. The Chiefs QB has a 7-0 touchdown / steal ratio and 79 QBR against Las Vegas compared to a 2-3 touchdown / steal ratio and 35 QBR against the Giants, Packers, Cowboys and Broncos during this period. But those wins over the Raiders helped push Mahomes back into the MVP mix after early-season frustrations for the Chiefs’ offense temporarily took the quarterback out of the conversation. Mahomes isn’t the best in any passing category, but ranks in the top 10 for completed passes, passing yards, passing touchdowns, first downs and QBR.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
A running back hasn’t been named MVP since Adrian Peterson in 2012, but the type of season Taylor is cooking up deserves to be in the conversation. He’s at the top of almost every rushing category, leading the league in rushing yards (1,348), rushing touchdowns (16) and scrum yards (1,684). He’s got 15 plays from 20 yards or more and is averaging 18.5 carries per game this season in an offense that doesn’t always rely on his running play first. Taylor has already scored 28 touchdowns in 30 career games and registered 100 rushing yards in four of his last five outings.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Los Angeles Rams
Three straight losses to Tennessee, San Francisco and Green Bay – in which Stafford threw several costly interceptions – knocked him out of the MVP mix, but the Rams quarterback returned to the conversation with a winning statement on NFC West Arizona’s nemesis in Week 14. Stafford and the Rams regained their offensive firepower as the QB recorded their 50th career three TD game. Stafford currently ranks third behind Brady and Peyton Manning in most passing touchdowns (33) in his first season with a new team in NFL history.
Field Yates and Mathew Berry discuss how Matthew Stafford keeps the Rams’ offense superb.
Also received the top 10 votes: Cowboys LB / EDGE Micah Parsons, Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, Rams WR Cooper Kupp, Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, Steelers EDGE TJ Watt, Browns EDGE Myles Garrett, Rams DT Aaron Donald, Packers WR Davante Adams, Bengals QB Joe Burrow, Patriots CB JC Jackson, 49ers WR Deebo Samuel, Colts QB Carson Wentz
The MVP candidate under Walder’s radar
Matthew Stafford, QB, Los Angeles Rams
He’s certainly no longer a favorite, but Stafford could still take home the MVP award. Is it that hard to imagine? The Rams are currently second in expected offensive points added per play and first in expected points added per passing play. Stafford is third in QBR behind Brady and Herbert, and that’s close. The punches against him are that Los Angeles is extremely unlikely to win the NFC’s No.1 seed, and he gets help from wide receiver Cooper Kupp, a strong offensive line and coach Sean. McVay. But if the Rams end the season strong offensively and teams like the Buccaneers and Packers stumble, Stafford will reappear as one of the top contenders.
Kezirian’s MVP Value Bet
Tom Brady, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
For the first time in this entire season, the MVP betting market has an odds favorite, and I still think Brady is worth -180. The price implies a 64% chance, and I think its chances are higher than that. The Bucs finish with four games against opponents currently in loss records, and that should help Tampa Bay clinch the NFC’s top seed.