With the NFL calendar closing in on the final six weeks of play, Week 11 marks the beginning of the most important stretch of games all season. With the playoff race becoming more in-focus, the list of who should be considered for MVP is shrinking by the week. There’s one player who has found himself outside of the list of favorites who should be near the top: Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry.
Could we possibly see a running back win the NFL MVP race? We’re going to dive into the impact Henry has had and whether he can actually upset Patrick Mahomes and Tua Tagovailoa as favorites.
NFL MVP Odds Heading Into Week 11
Let’s take a look at the 10 players with the best odds of winning the NFL MVP award entering Week 11, courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook. Be sure to read our analysis of all NFL and CFB sports betting.
- Patrick Mahomes
QB, Kansas City Chiefs (+125)
- Tua Tagovailoa
QB, Miami Dolphins (+350)
- Jalen Hurts
QB, Philadelphia Eagles (+500)
- Josh Allen
QB, Buffalo Bills (+600)
- Lamar Jackson
QB, Baltimore Ravens (+1400)
- Joe Burrow
QB, Cincinnati Bengals (+2500)
- Kirk Cousins
QB, Minnesota Vikings (+3000)
- Geno Smith
QB, Seattle Seahawks (+4000)
- Tyreek Hill
WR, Miami Dolphins (+8000)
- Justin Herbert
QB, Los Angeles Chargers (+10000)
Can Derrick Henry Win MVP in 2022?
While the NFL’s MVP Award has been exclusively a quarterback’s honor since Adrian Peterson won it in 2012, that doesn’t mean other players aren’t worthy. It’s a shame the Offensive Player of the Year Award has become the runner-up trophy for non-quarterbacks. Playmakers like Henry are rare but just as valuable to their offense.
MORE: NFL Super Bowl Odds 2023
Henry’s MVP case in 2022 is really no different than the same one he had in 2019 and 2020. His 2020 season was absolutely legendary. In a time when passing efficiency was at an all-time high, Henry was the sole provider for an offense that had truly built this identity around his skill set.
Henry led the NFL in carries, yards, and yards per game in both 2019 and 2020. With over 2,000 yards in 2020, Henry was the dominant force in an age that had all but shunned the type of bell cow back that Henry is. Only Nick Chubb and Saquon Barkley can boast similar production this season, but neither has a track record of usage like Henry.
The Titans’ offensive line has not been able to provide Henry with the same level of run blocking that he saw in 2020. This shouldn’t be held against Henry in arguments over his 4.6 yards per carry average. He’s been just as dynamic as ever, and his recent slate of games has certainly shown that.
Just look at it this way: Henry has two games under 82 yards rushing. He had a five-game streak with at least 100 yards, including one performance with 219 yards. He’s accomplished this with a rapidly declining passer in Ryan Tannehill (who has not been able to stay healthy nor be nearly as efficient as he was in 2020) and a third-round rookie in Malik Willis as his quarterbacks.
Instead, we should be focusing on Henry’s ability to lead the NFL in carries for the third time in four years and be in contention to lead in yards again. And while the MVP is not a multi-year award, it often is a legacy award that is tied to previous years of success.
On Thursday night against the Packers, Henry will once again take on a defense that is more talented than what the Titans’ offense has the offer. Also, remember that the Titans don’t have A.J. Brown anymore. This is a rudderless offense outside of Henry, especially after the failed trade of Brown for Treylon Burks.
Until Willis is ready to take over the reins, if he ever is ready, Henry will be the mainstay of the offense, as the Titans will run away with the AFC South once again. Another impressive performance in prime time should absolutely catapult a player who we’ve known since his collegiate days at Alabama as being a true one-of-a-kind thoroughbred workhorse.
If some of the traditional stats don’t sway your opinion on whether Henry is deserving of the MVP over Mahomes and Tagovailoa, let’s just take a look at some of the advanced metrics. Henry ranks as an elite creator as a rusher despite his line giving him the 35th-best run-block rating compared to other backs.
Henry is seventh in yards created, third in breakaway runs, eighth in evaded tackles, second in yards per reception, fifth in performance considering game script, and first in dominator rating. He’s doing more with less around him than anyone in the NFL, sans Barkley. But Barkley only ranks in the top 21 in yards created (No. 3) and dominator rating (No. 5) in all running back advanced stats.
Maybe a running back never wins MVP again. If Henry doesn’t do it, and his +150000 odds right now indicate that he has no shot, then a back will have an impossibly hard hill to climb in the future. I think it’s narrow-minded to overlook what true dominance at the position looks like.
The Titans won’t care as long as they make the postseason and win the AFC South for the third-straight year. But a pissed-off Henry will be the last face any AFC team will want to see come January.