NFL MVP Race and Odds Week 18: The case for Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow

The odds in the NFL MVP race have shifted in Week 18 as Bengals QB Joe Burrow has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards in the last two weeks.

The NFL MVP award has probably already been won. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the overwhelming favorite to win it for the second straight season and the fourth time overall. But Joe Burrow’s late surge deserves some love, and in our opinion, votes. Here are the latest NFL odds for the MVP race heading into Week 18.

NFL odds for MVP race heading into Week 18

*Odds are from FanDuel Sportsbook

  • -400 | QB Aaron Rodgers
  • +550 | QB Tom Brady
  • +1400 | QB Joe Burrow
  • +1400 | RB Jonathan Taylor
  • +4000 | QB Josh Allen
  • +4000 | QB Patrick Mahomes
  • +4000 | WR Cooper Kupp

The case for Joe Burrow winning MVP

Rodgers will likely win the award because he has put together the best résumé. He’s thrown 35 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions, and the Packers are the NFC’s No. 1 seed. But no player has meant more to his franchise in 2021 than Burrow. The Bengals are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2015, and Burrow is the biggest reason why.

In the biggest moments, he plays his best. The Bengals were relative long shots to win the AFC North two weeks ago, but Burrow went nuclear in wins against the Ravens and Chiefs to clinch the division and the home playoff game that comes with it.

Joe Burrow’s statistical production

Burrow’s 971 passing yards in his last two games are second-most in a two-game span in NFL history (Dak Prescott). He’s thrown 8 touchdown passes in his last eight quarters, capping a fantastic seven-week run that’s seen him go for 14 TDs and just 3 picks. During that stretch, he’s first in completion percentage over expectation (8.2) and second to only Rodgers in expected points added (EPA) per play (0.27).

Burrow acknowledged Sunday that he’s playing the best football of his career right now. “I’m seeing the field really well,” he said. And he’s making the throws. Burrow leads the league in yards per pass (8.9), completion percentage (70.4), and OVM (30.6), is second in passer rating (108.3) and CPOE + EPA (0.162), sixth in touchdowns (34), and 11th in QBR (53.9).

If he had thrown 7 interceptions instead of 14, Burrow might be the front-runner for the award. But he was a bit of a turnover machine early in the season, which inflated his total and probably eliminated him from MVP consideration.

That’s unfortunate. Because he’s played as well — if not better — than anyone in the NFL in the second half of the season. Burrow has met the moment with brilliance and moxie. Plus, there’s a change in culture from a poverty franchise.

Is Aaron Rodgers Burrow’s competition for MVP?

Rodgers is incredible, but his 2021 season had foreshadowing. The Packers are consistently in the hunt. Physics tells us the more momentum an object has, the harder it is to stop. So there were some tailwinds at his back helping push this Packers season along.

There was none of that for Burrow. He has created a winning culture from scratch — in his second NFL season, no less.

When asked if he could put into words what Burrow has meant to the Bengals’ franchise, Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor expounded.

“No, you can’t. I don’t think anybody can,” Taylor said. “We had expectations for him, and so far, he’s exceeded those expectations. And of course, he’s got championships on his brain — he’s not just a guy winning big regular-season games. I know that’s why he’s here — he’s always playing for championships. He’s playing for championships in high school, he played for championships in college, and his expectation has always been to compete for championships here.

“And it’s not going to be easy — we’ve got a lot to work to do — we’re not even close yet to doing all these great things. Certainly a big step in the right direction today, and there’s no question that Joe is at the forefront of leadership on this team, and this team jumps on his back, and he’ll carry us as far as we let him.”

Sounds like an MVP to us.

Adam Beasley is the National NFL Analyst and Insider for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Adam’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.