There is typically not a ton of value in betting on the NFL MVP. The list of candidates who truly have a chance at winning the award is slim and the odds aren’t great. With that being said it is always fun to see if there is a longshot worthy of taking a flier on based on historical criteria. Today I will discuss one MVP longshot I think is worthy of consideration.
Kirk Cousins 72-1 to win MVP (Longshot), sourced via 5Dimes
What goes into winning the NFL MVP? The last six MVPs and 11 of the last 12 have been quarterbacks. Those 11 quarterbacks were on teams that averaged 13 wins per season and none were on a team with fewer than 11 wins. The average preseason win total for these teams have been 10 wins. So, we need to look for a quarterback on a team with a high probability of not only making the playoffs but also with a realistic shot at a first-round bye. Odds are low that Patrick Mahomes will be able to repeat his unsustainable touchdown rate of 8.6 percent from last season which will most likely make it tough to repeat as MVP. There are definitely other worthy candidates, but I like to find deep value if possible. When looking at all the teams with a win total of 9 or more, by far the longest odds are Kirk Cousins at 72-1. The second-closest is Dak Prescott at 50-1. Others in the category are poor values like Mitchell Trubisky listed at 20-1 and Lamar Jackson at 45-1. Yikes.
Cousins faced a lot of pressure from the media after signing a record contract prior to the 2018 season. The Minnesota Vikings were one of the most popular preseason Super Bowl picks last year and the team underperformed by missing out on the playoffs. With lowered expectations for the Vikings this year, the spotlight will no longer be as bright on Cousins. For all the things that went wrong for Cousins and the Vikings, he still had a solid season that ranked 14th in success rate, 19th in DVOA, and 16th in QBR. Cousins and the Vikings will still trot out maybe the best wide receiver in the NFL in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs to go along with an improved offensive line and a young star running back in Dalvin Cook, who is expected to be healthy.
The Vikings get to face the eighth-easiest set of pass defenses in the NFL based on last year’s pass defense DVOA. Cousins also gets to play seven games against pass defenses that ranked in the bottom seven in the NFL last season. Last year in five games against bottom 10 DVOA pass defenses, Cousins completed 72 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns, two interceptions, and an excellent 8.3 yards per attempt average. He is capable of shredding bad defenses when given the chance.
The weather conditions will also be excellent for Cousins all season. In the final eight games of the season, when bad weather would normally be a negative factor, Cousins faces only one potential bad weather game, Week 13 in Seattle. The rest of the games will either be in a dome or Los Angeles. Last season, Cousins really struggled on the road with three games in Chicago, New England, and Seattle in November and December. Cousins could only muster four touchdowns, four interceptions and averaged a minuscule 5.4 yards per attempt in three loses. He won’t have to face the same adverse conditions this year.
Between a top-10 easiest pass defense schedule expected, good weather conditions all season, and a team that has the capability of winning 11 or more games and their division, Cousins at 72-1 to win the MVP is definitely good value as a longshot flier.