As much as I could make the claim that I miss football, I’ll be honest with everyone reading this: I really don’t. Part of this feeling stems from the fact that I’ve always loved the statistical elements of analyzing basketball and baseball just a little bit more than what the NFL has to offer; but, well, being a Dolphins fan who was seven years old when Dan Marino retired could also explain some things. In any case, despite the fact I’m not staring out a rainy window thinking longingly of Andy Reid’s moustache, I will admit, talking about any sport prior to the season starting is a writer’s dream. Why? Because, as you should know, it’s open season for insane predictions. Future bets are the best and the DK Sportsbook has so, so many to choose from.
Today, let’s focus on three people who could walk away from the 2019 NFL regular season as the league’s MVP.
Note: All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
ANDREW LUCK: +1000As of early June, Luck finds himself tied for the third-lowest odds of taking home the award for the league’s most valuable player. The other men at 10/1? Drew Brees and Carson Wentz. The two men ahead of Luck? Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady. Justifiably, there’s little shocking about the top-end of the MVP spectrum. History has painted a pretty clear picture of who generally takes home this award. If your team wins a bunch of games in the regular season and you are the player taking the snaps from behind center, you’ve already pretty much made the short list.
So, with that in mind, an endorsement of Luck is also betting on the fact that last year’s success in Indianapolis wasn’t a fluke. I’m very okay with believing that to be true. Not only are the Colts currently the favorite to win the AFC South next season at +105; but they underperformed in 2018 based on their pythagorean win total (10.7) and outscored their opposition by a margin of 117 points across the final 11 weeks. In that same span, Luck threw the second-most touchdown passes in the league (23). Additionally, he was sacked just eight times within that stretch – the fewest number among the 20 QBs with more than 200 drop backs. There’s real value to be mined from having the NFL’s second-lowest adjusted sack rate, especially when your quarterback is recovering from a major shoulder injury.
There’s equal value in being a part of an uptempo offense. We tend to not make as big a deal about pace in football as we do basketball, but Luck didn’t accidentally lead the NFL in drop backs in 2018. There’s a method to producing this level of volume. One aspect of that is Indianapolis sitting with the ninth-highest pass ratio among all offensives; however, the more important variable to consider is that no team in the league averaged less time in between snaps than the Colts at a microscopic 26.3 seconds per play. This meant, by year’s end, that Indianapolis was one of five teams to average over 66 offensive snaps per contest. Add that statistical excess to the fact that the Colts executed the fourth-most red zone scoring possessions on a per game basis, and you’re left with a fantasy football wonderland that would seem very correlated with drawing the eyes of prospective MVP voters. Obviously, small individual things like Luck’s aDOT jumping to 8.8 yards over the final five weeks of the season matters, as well. Yet, when it comes to this award in particular, the system around the player is vital. Few QBs have it better heading into September than Luck.
JARED GOFF: +2500Oh, how quickly we forget. Look, I’m just as liable as anyone when it comes to laughing at the league’s obvious attempt to employ anyone who came into contact with Sean McVay this offseason; however, those actions don’t detract from his offensive acumen. When we’re talking about the Rams, we’re still discussing a collection of players who led the NFL in red zone scoring possessions per contest (4.6), led the NFC in points per game (30.8), and were third in the league in yards gained on a weekly basis (412.4). Sure, McVay was out-coached by established defensive genius Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl. Fortunately, the Patriots don’t appear on Los Angeles’ schedule in 2019.
I wouldn’t get too worked up over a one-game sample. It’s not as if Goff is a replacement-level system quarterback, either. When it was all said and done last season, Goff finished fourth in passing yards (4,688), second in 300-plus yard games (8), and sixth in passing touchdowns (32). Go back to Week 11 of 2018. Following their epic Monday Night victory over the Chiefs, Goff was a top 5 MVP candidate. Now he enters the upcoming campaign with only the 11th best odds? I mean, Jimmy Garoppolo is 28/1 coming off an ACL tear. How are these two situations comparable?
You also have to consider Goff’s teammates when making the case that these odds are simply too high. With quarterbacks winning this award as often as they do, we don’t often have to consider vote splitting when it comes to MVP; but with the Rams, Todd Gurley’s health looms large. One of the biggest arguments against Goff last season was that he wasn’t even the most valuable player on his own team. Well, I think it’s safe to assume that Gurley won’t be playing 80% of the snaps in a majority of Los Angeles’ matchups this year. Yes, losing Gurley’s potency might hurt the Rams’ offensive output overall, yet I tend to believe that running back is the most interchangeable piece in a coach’s system. If Los Angeles can muster points at a rate anything close to last season, Goff will be the main reason why.
Cooper Kupp’s anticipated return also doesn’t hurt. On the six occasions where the premier slot receiver was able to play at least 60% of the Rams’ offensive plays, Goff produced an eye-popping 83.2% adjusted completion percentage to go along with an average of 352.5 passing yards per game. This offense – and Goff in particular – were just different when Kupp was able to play. You can’t discount the severity of his injury, however, Kupp’s presence could make these odds notable in six months time.
LE’VEON BELL: +4000I’m fully aware that this is a dart throw, but I’d at least argue it’s an educated one. While 11 of the past 12 MVPs have been quarterbacks, there’s still something to be said for blind narrative. Bell has a chance to have a very special season. It’s just that his margin for error is a lot slimmer than someone who drops back to throw 600 times a season. Still, let’s break down the path to the former Steeler bringing home the hardware.
First and foremost, the Jets will have to be good. That might be saying a lot for a team that just struggled to a 4-12 record in 2018, but you don’t have to squint to see the makings of a decent roster. Sam Darnold will be entering his second year of professional football and, while he was inefficient and turnover-prone in his rookie season, we’ve got more than enough examples of sophomore QBs thriving throughout NFL history. Also, beyond Bell himself, New York added some nice pieces in C.J. Mosley, Jamison Crowder, and Kelichi Osemele. Toss in third-overall pick Quinnen Williams and all of a sudden there’s some intriguing talent dispersed among these 53 men. Plus, with four games against the Dolphins and the Bills, like most years, you can probably expect one non-Patriots AFC East team to somehow find their way to a schedule-assisted 10 wins.
Still, this is mostly about Bell’s individual potential. It can’t be ignored that Bell owes some of his prior success to consistently fantastic offensive line play in Pittsburgh; however, we’re talking about a back that led the league with 406 touches the last time he took the field. He’s not afraid of volume and he’s been within sniffing distance of 2,000 scrimmage yard seasons in the very recent past.
Then there’s the matter of the lost campaign. While its possible some within the Associated Press might hold Bell’s contractual dispute against him, the 27-year-old’s one-man strike actually gives the running back the peculiar distinction of representing conflicting ideas. He’s the bell-cow RB with tread still on the tires. He’s the All-Pro who only ranks 16th in carries dating back to the beginning of 2015. He’s still got his legs, despite the fact that it seems like the shelf-life for running backs get shorter and shorter with each passing season. Honestly, I’m more worried about coach Adam Gase making this a poor wager than I am Bell.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
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