Last night’s New England Patriots win in Buffalo gave the Pats the current one seed in the AFC and a leg up in the AFC East battle. The Arizona Cardinals maintain the top seed in the NFC with the Green Bay Packers on their heels and back this week off a bye. We are down to five weeks left in the regular season and plenty to play for. Can anyone catch the ageless Tom Brady for MVP? Here is your weekly check-in on Super Bowl odds and races in notable awards.
Super Bowl odds
After Monday’s bizarre and windy win at Buffalo, the Patriots now own the AFC’s top seed. But how good are they? Bill Belichick didn’t seem to trust his rookie quarterback all that much, only allowing three pass attempts. The defense is clearly the calling card, but I just wonder what happens when the playoffs arrive and New England has to face strong offenses that aren’t limited by winds approaching 40 miles per hour. New England (+800) is the fourth favorite right now and only Kansas City (+650) has shorter odds in the AFC.
The Packers (+750) have a tough remaining schedule, with games against the Ravens, Browns and Vikings. About two weeks ago their odds were in the double digits, but now they feel properly valued. Green Bay has a shot at the top seed, given its head-to-head win over Arizona, but the NFC is so top-heavy that all contenders should have beefier odds than you would think.
What if the Rams (13-1) put it together? They visit Arizona this week for Monday Night Football and are certainly capable of winning the Super Bowl. Remember, this is a team that pretty much dominated Tampa Bay in September. But it’s also a team that recently suffered a three-game skid and looked shaky.
I still maintain the Colts are a contender and built for a cold-weather playoff run. They are still 20-1 to win the AFC. Indy hosts New England after its bye week and then travels to Arizona on Christmas. We will learn a lot over their next two games.
Super Bowl futures
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +525
Kansas City Chiefs +650
Green Bay Packers +750
New England Patriots +800
Arizona Cardinals +800
Buffalo Bills +1000
Dallas Cowboys +1200
Los Angeles Rams +1300
Baltimore Ravens +1500
Tennessee Titans +2200
We have approached a juncture of the MVP race where it’s time to start asking ourselves what it would take for the favorite not to win the award. Tom Brady is a +140 betting favorite and the other quarterbacks all have legitimate paths to victory so this is not a mere formality.
The biggest hurdle for Brady to clear is this Sunday, when the Bucs host Josh Allen (+1000) and the Bills. If Tampa Bay holds serve at home, it will play its final four games against teams currently with losing records. Allen had a golden opportunity on Monday night but Buffalo came up short in a game dominated by wind.
Aaron Rodgers (+550) is the second-favorite and he does feel like Brady’s biggest competition. However, even if Green Bay lands the NFC’s top seed, do you anticipate voters giving him the nod in the wake of his COVID-19 fiasco and the offseason circus he created? I do not.
Patrick Mahomes (+900) is lurking and while the Chiefs have won five straight, he has posted pedestrian numbers outside of his Sunday Night Football performance vs. the Raiders. He actually has had consecutive games without a touchdown pass. With that being said, Kansas City has a chance to finish with the AFC’s best record and he could explode the final five games.
Dak Prescott (14-1) is interesting. Dallas probably will not finish with either of the NFC’s top seeds but there is a chance, especially if they win in Arizona in Week 17. He missed a game this year and also has struggled when the Cowboys played without key wide receivers so if he finishes the final month with impressive numbers, there is a path to the award.
Other awards to watch
I do not understand the Offensive Rookie of the Year odds. Mac Jones is a -500 favorite after throwing just three passes. This is not a QB award like the MVP. Bill Belichick is getting all the credit for New England’s success, and the rookie just hasn’t done a whole lot to deserve much praise. Ja’Marr Chase (+350) ranks in the top five in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. That’s not among the rookies; that’s in the entire league. Yes, he had a costly bobble Sunday that became an interception but he’s considered one of the NFL’s biggest threats. Jones has a bright future but I maintain that stats are more important that QB wins. Chase is worth a play.
I highlighted this bet last week at -150 but I still think it’s worth a play at -275 for Jonathan Taylor to lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns. He has 16 while James Connor and Joe Mixon each have 12. Taylor and the offensive line are the team’s focal point, and he will continue to get the carries. Meanwhile, Kyler Murray just returned from injury and that will inhibit Connor’s production. Mixon has seven rushing TDs in his last four games but that is outlier production. He also sustained a neck injury in Sunday’s home loss.