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All the scuttlebutt in Eagles circles this week has been about Carson Wentz now being the odds-on leader to win NFL MVP. Let’s slow down a little bit, Eagles fans. This Wentzlvania fever is getting a bit out of control.
Yes, the Eagles are 5-1 and the top team in the NFC. The updated Las Vegas Super Bowl odds have the Eagles tied with Kansas City and Pittsburgh at 10-to-1, behind only New England at 5-to-1 and just ahead of Seattle at 12-to-1. Yes, Wentz is the unquestioned leader of the Eagles’ offense and he has 13 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions (and two lost fumbles), far better numbers than he had last season. Sure, Aaron Rodgers just broke his collarbone, so even if he makes some miraculous late-season comeback for the Packers, the previous favorite to win MVP is now off the board.
But does all that really make it Wentz now?
Some people in Vegas think so. According to Bovada, Wentz is +175 to win NFL MVP, which means you’d have to bet $100 to win $175. Kansas City’s Alex Smith is +200 while Tom Brady is +400. How thin is the MVP race at this point? DeShaun Watson is currently next on the list at +1000 and he wasn’t even the Texans’ starter at the beginning of the season.
So there you have it, according to the money people, Wentz is the favorite. Only, if you’re planning to bet on him winning, you missed your best shot. Before the season, Bovada had Brady as the favorite at +400, with Rodgers behind him at +500. Derek Carr of Oakland, who himself has missed games with injury again this year, was at +700 while last year’s MVP, local boy Matt Ryan, was tied with several others at +1600. Wentz wasn’t even close to a favorite then.
In mid-September, Bovada had Matthew Stafford of Detroit as the favorite, tied with Brady and Rodgers at +500. Stafford, it’s worth noting, opened the season at +5000, so you can see how these things fluctuate. The Lions have lost three of their last four games and Stafford is back down to +2500. Point is: If you think Wentz is going to win MVP, now is the worst time to bet on it. Literally do not bet on it.
Bovada certainly isn’t the only sportsbook putting out MVP odds. Bet365 has Brady as their favorite at 2-to-1 (+200), with Smith behind him at 6-to-1 and Wentz at 8-to-1. Watson follows Wentz at 9-to-1 while Matt Ryan is at 10-to-1. How ridiculous are looking at MVP odds in Week 7? Chiefs rookie running back Kareem Hunt is at 12-to-1 to win MVP, while Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is at 66-to-1. It’s still early.
And yet, some things have a way of shaking out by Week 7. Wentz wasn’t even listed in the top 20 MVP candidates on Bet365 over the summer, while Denver’s Trevor Siemian had the same odds as Drew Brees at 33-to-1. Now, Siemian is 125-to-1 while Brees is 20-to-1. It’s all about who’s putting money where, and Vegas updating their odds to entice more action while protecting a payout. It’s less about who will win at the end of the season than who can attract the most action right now.
How many Eagles fans do you think saw that Wentz is now the MVP favorite and put down a few hundred bucks on him this week? Vegas loves that, not only because fans are constantly betting things like this so early in the season, but because the fans who put money on Wentz this week didn’t do it last week, or a month ago, when the payout would be 10 or 20 times what it is now.
Forget the bet, Can Wentz win?
Okay, let’s forget about how you missed your chance to cash in on Wentz and focus just on whether or not he can actually win the award. Short answer: Probably not.
Wentz is eighth in the NFL in passing yards per game and tied for second, behind Watson, for touchdown passes. His quarterback rating is eighth-best in the league and while he’s been incredible on third down this season — 42-of-63 (66.7 percent) with seven touchdowns, one interception and 38 first downs on 48 pass/run opportunities — the rest of the game he’s been, like, only kind of good. He’s been okay. Not great.
Wentz is completing just 60.9 percent of his passes this season. In last week’s win against a tough Carolina defense on the road, he threw three touchdown passes, but only had only 16 completions on 30 throws. With two chances to seal the game with a first down late in the fourth quarter, the Eagles offense sputtered and the defense had to stop Cam Newton twice to secure the win.
In the victory over the Chargers three weeks ago, Wentz had 17 completions on 31 throws. In the Week 2 loss to Kansas City he had 25 completions on 46 throws.
The other three games, all wins, Wentz has completed better than 66 percent of his passes, and so far when he’s missed, the ball isn’t going into the hands of his opponents, but 60.9 percent isn’t MVP caliber. His numbers are being masked by his “clutchness” on third down, and the fact the Eagles are winning close games instead of losing them. But 60.9 percent is actually pretty bad, ranking 28th in the NFL for quarterbacks who have thrown 30 or more passes, and 25th among signal callers who have more than 130 attempts.
Over the last 10 NFL seasons, nine quarterbacks have won MVP — Ryan, Newton, Rodgers twice, Peyton Manning three times and Brady twice — and the only quarterback to have worse than a 65.5 percent completion rate was Newton, who won despite completing just 59.8 percent of his passes in 2015. Having said that, Cam had 35 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing scores that year. He had 636 yards on the ground to go with his 3,837 passing yards. The Panthers went 15-1 that season.
Wentz is on pace for more than 4,200 yards passing and 35 touchdowns. Manning in 2008 and 2009 was the only recent MVP to have fewer than 35 TD passes.
Wentz has picked up some key first downs with his legs, but he’s nowhere near Newton’s MVP pace, slated for just over 350 yards rushing and, to date, he hasn’t scored with his legs yet this year. He’s having a very good year, but he’s going to have to get better (or more contenders will have to get hurt) for him to win.
Age and experience matter (to voters)
Remember, the MVP is voted on by sportswriters, and most sportswriters care more about narratives than indisputable fact. The narrative of Brady coming back to lead New England to yet another AFC East title or Alex Smith at this point in his career finally looking like a No. 1 pick leading Kansas City to home field are both probably better stories than Wentz winning an MVP in his second year. As Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philly pointed out, the last player to win MVP in his second year was Kurt Warner, who at 28 years old wasn’t exactly a prototypical second-year guy.
Wentz will turn 25 in December. The youngest quarterback in the last 35 years to win NFL MVP was Newton in 2015, who was 26 years old when he won. That was Newton’s fifth season in the NFL.
Peyton Manning won his first Associated Press MVP at 27. Rodgers won his first at 28, the year after he won a Super Bowl. Brady didn’t win one until he was 30. Brett Favre turned 26 the year he won his first AP MVP, his fifth season in the NFL.
The last player to win MVP at 25 or younger was Emmitt Smith, who won the award at age 24 in 1993, the season Dallas won back-to-back Super Bowls. Thurman Thomas and Marcus Allen also both won AP MVP at age 25, each in their fourth seasons in the NFL.
The last time a quarterback as young as Wentz won NFL MVP was 1984, when Dan Marino, in his second year in the league, won the award at 23-years old. The Dolphins lost the Super Bowl that season, in Marino’s only trip.
Will Wentz lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl in his second season? He might have to if he wants to win MVP.