NFC South 2020 MVP Odds: Who has the best value?

PFN's senior betting analyst Christopher Smith breaks down MVP odds for several NFC South players ahead of the 2020 season.

On this week’s episode of Pro Football Network’s Against the Spread podcast, hosts Ryan Gosling, Chris Smith, and George Templeton broke down the NFC South division. With the addition of Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, the division is now unrivaled in terms of star power at the quarterback position. Could one of the NFC South quarterbacks be in prime position to win the MVP Award in 2020, or might a skill position player provide sneaky value with their own MVP odds?

Make sure to check out the podcast below, and then read Chris Smith’s breakdown of potential NFC South MVP odds!

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2020 MVP NFC South candidates

Tom Brady – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1800)

Coming off a lackluster performance last weekend on the links, you can bet Tom Brady will be poised to take out his frustrations on the rest of the league by the time the regular season rolls around. Brady goes from a one-man show in Foxboro to a plethora of weapons in Tampa Bay. Joining up with Bruce Arians and the Buccaneers has helped Brady’s MVP odds jump from +3300 at the start of free agency all the way to around +1500 at some books.

As if the young stud wide receiving duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin wasn’t enough, Brady is bringing along his favorite security blanket in Rob Gronkowski. Brady will undoubtedly be motivated to prove to everyone that he wasn’t merely a system quarterback in New England. The best way to do just that would be to put up huge offensive numbers with the Buccaneers while Belichick and the Patriots struggle to do the same without him in the AFC East in 2020.

Related | Tom Brady vs. the Patriots: Who will get more wins this season?

Brady has seen his quarterback rating decline in four straight seasons, despite throwing for over 4,000 yards in each of the past three years. That said, he’s only thrown for double-digit interceptions once in the past six seasons, which is sure to be a welcome change for a team whose quarterback threw the ball to the wrong team 30 times in 2019. If Brady finishes close to his Vegas projected totals of 4,224.5 passing yards and 30 passing touchdowns, he seems very likely to be in the mix for 2020 NFL MVP.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went from a mediocre franchise to having the fourth-best Super Bowl odds in the entire league with one transaction. That is the power of adding a five-time Super Bowl winner at quarterback. If the Buccaneers manage to win the NFC South, he becomes an increasingly viable candidate for the award despite having the shortest odds of anyone in the division. I personally won’t have any shares of Brady for MVP in 2020 at +1800, although it certainly wouldn’t stun me to see him win it. 

Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints (+2500)

Unlike Brady, Drew Brees has actually seen his passer rating rise for five consecutive seasons. Unfortunately, his play on the field hasn’t matched his prime years for quite some time, as evidenced by a decline in his yardage totals as well as an inability to connect on long throws with nearly the accuracy he once had. After battling with Brady for the all-time passing touchdown record the past few seasons ever since Peyton Manning’s retirement, now Brees will go head-to-head with Brady twice this season as NFC South foes.

The battle for 2020 NFL MVP, however, will feature more than just the two most prolific, active quarterbacks. In fact, Brees may find himself in competition with two of his teammates for the league’s top individual award. Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara both have MVP odds currently posted, with Thomas becoming the first wide receiver not named Jerry Rice to win the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award just last season. While both are relative longshots for this particular award, at 150-1 and 100-1, respectively, Thomas and Kamara could hypothetically siphon votes from the former Super Bowl MVP in what is believed to be his final season.

Brees missed five regular-season games last season with a thumb injury, and the New Orleans Saints didn’t miss a beat with Teddy Bridgewater under center. This offseason, the team signed enigmatic Jameis Winston as Brees’ backup, and they also have jack of all trades Taysom Hill in the fold. When examining Brees’ MVP odds, particularly as juxtaposed with his NFC South brethren, it’s important to remember that any time off the field would basically kill his chances at the award. That includes injury forcing him out of the lineup, in addition to lost opportunities to Hill, who sports 150-1 MVP odds of his own on DraftKings.

A productive, workman-like season might be all the New Orleans Saints need out of Brees to advance deep into the NFC playoffs just like they have the past few seasons. Anything less than a statistical renaissance season, however, does nothing for the +2500 Brees MVP ticket holder. With a strong offensive line and an elite arsenal of weaponry at the skill positions (let’s not forget Emmanuel Sanders), anything is possible. I just can’t recommend Brees at 25-1 for NFL MVP in 2020, with so many other players providing more value at their respective odds, including other NFC South candidates.

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Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers (+5000)

Perhaps the most dynamic and talented player in the NFC South also has the least likeliest opportunity to capture the 2020 MVP Award. Christian McCaffrey is coming off a historic, nearly 2,400-yard campaign in 2019, which saw him emerge as the top fantasy running back in the NFL and earned him a $64 million contract extension with the Carolina Panthers. I’d hold off on placing that wager on McCaffrey for MVP, though.

The Panthers lost Cam Newton early in the 2019 season and had little choice but to feed McCaffrey to the tune of a 93% snap share while Kyle Allen did everything in his power not to turn the ball over. This year, brand new head coach Matt Rhule brought in Teddy Bridgewater to handle the quarterback duties. While Teddy is unlikely to return anything on his personal 100-1 MVP odds, he should be capable enough to spread the ball around efficiently enough to curtail some of McCaffrey’s touches in this offense.

Even if McCaffrey were to match his dominant statistical season of last year, it’s likely to be because Carolina’s weak defense has them involved in shootouts, which the Panthers realistically end up on the wrong side of most of the time. Anything more than a .500 season for Carolina seems far fetched when examining the current roster construction, and it’s difficult to believe the league MVP goes to a player on a losing team.

The final deterrent to any lingering hopes for an MVP award going to McCaffrey lies within his position on the football field. Running backs simply do not win this award. Adrian Peterson, in 2012, is the only running back and only non-quarterback for that matter, to win the MVP in the last 14 seasons. In the modern-day NFL, all glory goes to the quarterback, no matter how astronomical the pinball numbers look on the final stat sheet for game-breakers like McCaffrey.

Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons (+6000)

The 2016 MVP Award winner has the longest odds of any of the aforementioned NFC South quarterbacks at 60-1, but he’s also the only one still in the prime of his career. Ryan is arguably one of the most underappreciated quarterbacks in NFL history. Sounds like hyperbole, right? The fact is Ryan has put up some monster numbers in his time with the Atlanta Falcons, and there are some indicators that he could be in for another huge season in 2020.

There are two quirky trends in Ryan’s favor when examining if he might produce significant statistical numbers this year. The first has to do with Ryan consistently fairing better in even-numbered years. Newton’s career has had a similar statistical tendency, and those of us old enough to remember Bret Saberhagen can appreciate this theory having some legs. The more applicable shift towards an improvement on last season’s performance from Ryan comes from within the coaching staff.

Looking back through Ryan’s career in Atlanta, his best statistical seasons usually come after gaining some comfort with his offensive coordinators. The Falcons made the playoffs in three of the first four years of Ryan’s stay in Atlanta while paired up with Mike Mularkey. Statistically, Ryan saw his touchdown passes increase every season while Mularkey was with the Falcons. When Kyle Shanahan arrived in 2015, Ryan had his worst statistical season before flourishing in 2016 once he gained confidence in the new system and won the league MVP, tossing for 38 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions.

Who was the one offensive coordinator who Ryan didn’t seem to need much of a learning curve with? Current coordinator Dirk Koetter who is in his second stint with the Falcons. The addition of Todd Gurley to the explosive wideouts in Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones has Ryan primed for another big season.

Atlanta does have an absolutely brutal schedule. However, I think there’s an opportunity for Ryan to shine in several national television spots down the stretch. If the Falcons can out-maneuver the Saints or Buccaneers for one of the wild card spots come December, I suspect the +6000 MVP odds for Ryan might be the most valuable of all the NFC South candidates in 2020.

Official bet: Matt Ryan MVP, +6000, .2 units

Christopher Smith is the senior betting analyst at Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisSmithPFN for upcoming analysis. Also, make sure to follow the betting group @PFNBets for analysis from all of our writers heading into the 2020 season.

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