The board for Super Bowl LI MVP odds lists over 20 names. I have no idea why. It should list two, and a third option for the field. And the field should be working with some long odds. That’s my drawn out way of saying that this MVP race is two-horse affair.
The pending clash between Atlanta and New England in Super Bowl 51 is going to be an offensive slug-fest. They are two of the league’s three highest scoring teams, quarterbacked by two players worthy of league MVP (although one is a lock to win it). While neither defense is abhorrent (a recent development for Atlanta), there’s no real threat of somebody Von Miller-ing all over this game. The outcome will be determined by which offense executes better, and that means the highest individual honor will almost certainly go to the guys running the offense: Matt Ryan and Tom Brady.
For the Falcons, the player getting the most love outside of Ryan is Julio Jones. Sitting around +1000 to win MVP, the thinking is that one of the game’s best receivers should be able to find success, even against a Bill Belichick defense that will no doubt game plan to stop him. But this is not last year’s Falcons, a team that was so reliant on Jones that he was targeted on 33-percent of pass plays. This offense is balanced, and exploits mismatches all over the field with its second and third receivers.
Five of the six wide receivers to ever win Super Bowl MVP accounted for over half of their quarterback’s total passing yardage. Even if Jones has an exceptional game like he did in the NFC Championship (180 yards, two touchdowns), Ryan’s production will only be that much greater because he spreads the ball around so much. If the NFC title game gave out an MVP award, you can guarantee Ryan would have won it (392 yard passing, four passing TDs, one rushing TD).
It’s even harder to envision anyone else from Atlanta winning. Both running backs are very talented, but that’s why Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman split touches nearly 50-50. It would be difficult for just one of them to leave a massive stamp on this game. There’s only one player on this offense that will truly dictate if the Falcons win, and he’ll be rewarded if they do.
Thanks to circumstances off the field, the route to an MVP award is even simpler for Brady: win. Super Bowl MVP is selected by a mixture of media (80-percent of vote) and fans (20-percent). People on both sides of that coin definitely want to see Roger Goodell have to laud Brady for a great game before handing him the trophy, just four months after he suspended Brady for the dubious Deflategate scandal.
The desire to anoint Brady as truly the greatest quarterback of all time will also be a factor. He’s currently tied with Joe Montana in not only Super Bowl wins, but also Super Bowl MVPs. Giving Brady one more honor would remove any doubt of where he ranks all-time. Even if he has a below-average game by Brady standards (think 200 yards and one score), there will still be a strong push to give him recognition.
So, for Brady to get passed over, all it will take is a bad game from one of the all-time greats and an insane game from someone else on this unassuming Patriot roster. You can understand my level of confidence.
Overall, if you have a strong inkling of who you like in this game one way or the other, rather than bet that team to win on the moneyline, just bet their quarterback to win MVP. While the Pats are going off at -150 to win, the lowest I’ve seen Brady’s MVP odds is -120. Ryan offers even more value at +180, while the Falcons to win is +130. You can increase your potential payout for an insignificant increase in risk.
Photo credit: Peter Bond (Flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/]
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