By Scott Kacsmar
Beyond just winning the Super Bowl, one of the most prestigious honors to come from the NFL’s final game of the year is the Super Bowl MVP award.
Some players win it almost at random for being in the right place at the right time – or part of the right defense – like Dexter Jackson (2002 Buccaneers), Malcolm Smith (2013 Seahawks), and Larry Brown (1995 Cowboys).
For other players, the Super Bowl MVP is the final piece of validation to an all-time great season like it was for Cooper Kupp (2021 Rams), Kurt Warner (1999 Rams), and Steve Young (1994 49ers).
Mentioning Warner is important, because that 1999 season is still the last time a player won MVP and the Super Bowl in the same season. MVP winners are 0-9 in the Super Bowl ever since, and we could see the latest example as Patrick Mahomes is expected to run away with the 2022 NFL MVP award.
But based on past trends, does that make Mahomes a bad bet for Super Bowl MVP, or is he so uniquely good that he is the best bet this week?
Let’s figure this one out.
Will Patrick Mahomes Win Super Bowl MVP?
First things first, the MVP is going to someone on the winning team. The losing team has only won one Super Bowl MVP, and that was way back in 1970 after a terribly played game between the Colts and Cowboys
Mahomes has star power to get people to suggest he should win MVP in a losing effort, but voters will not actually go through with it for the same reason they did not give LeBron James a Finals MVP the first time he faced the Golden State Warriors. They had to find someone (Andre Iguodala) on the winning team to give it to instead. That is just how things go in American sports.
We also know Mahomes will get more of a pass than Jalen Hurts if his stat line is not gaudy in this game. There will be more sympathy for his high-ankle sprain than for Hurts’ shoulder sprain suffered in Week 15. Also, Hurts just has not played that well in his last five outings. He has no touchdown passes in three of his last four games, and he hasn’t even hit 40 yards rushing or 6.6 yards per attempt in his last three games.
The Winning Quarterback Dilemma
Still, we also know quarterbacks win more Super Bowl MVPs than anyone, but it may not be the landslide you expected. The number is 31-of-56, which is 55.4%. That means almost 45% of the award winners are a non-quarterbacks, and that is still true in recent times with 12 of the last 27 (44.4%) going to non-quarterbacks.
Since the Eagles are a slight favorite at 1.5 points, some sportsbooks give Hurts a very slight edge over Mahomes for the Super Bowl MVP odds. Some have them neck and neck at +130 odds each.
With a 1.5-point spread, the Eagles have an implied probability of 55% to win this game. This may be considered crude math, but if we give Hurts (+130 odds) a 55% chance to win the game but just a 60% chance of winning MVP since he is not playing that great coming into this game, then a $100 bet on Hurts for MVP would have an expected value of $42.90.
If we give Mahomes (+130 odds) a 45% chance to win the game and a 90% chance to win MVP since he is such an overwhelming force on that team, then a $100 bet on Mahomes for MVP has an expected value of $52.65.
For comparison, if we did this for Eagles edge rusher Haason Reddick (+3400 odds) and gave him a 10% chance of getting MVP in an Eagles win, then a $100 bet on him for MVP would have an expected value of $187. Not bad. He likely would have won MVP honors if they gave those out for the NFC Championship Game.
We could tinker with the percentages of the player’s likelihood of winning MVP if their team wins, but this is still giving Hurts a 60% chance when quarterbacks historically win 55.4% of the time, so he is still getting an above-average shake at it when the Eagles have so many options on both sides of the ball.
But despite the close or equal odds on the sportsbooks for Hurts and Mahomes, it is hard for me to believe that Mahomes is not a more valuable bet as he is just flat out more likely to be honored as MVP if his team wins than Hurts. Mahomes can throw two picks and still win this award just as he did against the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.
But Shouldn’t Mahomes Lose This Game?
Unfortunately, there are a lot of signs in this game that suggest the Eagles should win.
- Quarterbacks like Mahomes who led the league in passing yards are 0-for-56 at winning the Super Bowl that season.
- The last nine MVP winners to reach the Super Bowl are 0-9 in the big game.
- The last eight quarterbacks to earn first-team All-Pro honors and reach the Super Bowl are 0-8 in the big game.
- Kurt Warner (1999 Rams) is the last quarterback to win MVP and/or earn first-team All-Pro honors and win the Super Bowl in the same season.
- The No. 1 scoring offense is 1-6 in the Super Bowl since 2001.
- The Chiefs ranked No. 21 in points per drive allowed on defense. Since 1993, teams ranked worse than No. 15 in points per drive allowed are 2-5 in the Super Bowl with only the 2006 Colts (No. 30) and 2011 Giants (No. 24) winning.
- The 2022 Chiefs were minus-3 in turnover differential in the regular season. Only six of the 56 Super Bowl winners were minus-3 or worse in turnover differential.
- The Chiefs allowed a league-high 33 touchdown passes, and no Super Bowl winner has ever allowed 30 touchdown passes in the regular season.
- This Super Bowl has the largest cap percentage disparity at quarterback since 1994 with Mahomes (17.0%) having a way higher share of the cap than Hurts (0.7%). Only Steve Young (13.1%) in 1994 had a cap hit above 13% in a Super Bowl-winning year.
Throw in the health of Kansas City’s skill players, including Mahomes’ ankle, and the fact that the Eagles go for it on fourth down way more often than the Chiefs, and they are unstoppable with those quarterback sneaks, a play the Chiefs will not even run with Mahomes after he dislocated his kneecap in 2019.
I did not even mention yet that Super Bowl referee Carl Cheffers has been a villain to the Chiefs before.
It all falls in line with NFL staples like “defense wins championships” and “football teams are built in the trenches.” The pass-happy team with the hobbled quarterback could not block the defense with 70 sacks in the Super Bowl. The below-average defense without enough stars or solid veterans could not stop the run or get Hurts to make enough mistakes.
Tale as old as time.
But what if the Chiefs still win?
Mahomes Controls the Narrative
For all the things we just stacked against Mahomes and the Chiefs, that is why a win by Kansas City is going to give him all the narrative power he could ask for to win MVP even if his stat line is not the sexiest or what we are used to seeing.
Again, the Chiefs already did this script against the 49ers three years ago in Super Bowl LIV, and that defense was arguably better than this Philadelphia unit. Mahomes was not playing that great into the fourth quarter, but he hit a third-and-15 for the play of the game and the Chiefs took off from there with three touchdown drives and he was MVP.
We already watched the Eagles give up a third-and-30 in the fourth quarter to Dak Prescott in Week 16, which is the closest thing the Eagles have seen to a good quarterback and offense like the Chiefs this year. Despite Prescott taking six sacks and throwing a pick-six in that game, he still found a way to put up 40 points and complete 27-of-35 passes with six drops for nearly 350 yards.
If Prescott can do that, then what is stopping Mahomes from figuring things out in this matchup? The Eagles are largely a first-half team without a track record of winning shootouts or coming back on teams late. This is an ideal matchup for the Chiefs to find their footing later and win the game in the fourth quarter.
Also, the ankle injury could again help the Chiefs if it means they scheme to get the ball out faster and not expose Mahomes to this pass rush. In 2021, these teams met and Mahomes threw his average pass in 2.32 seconds, the fastest game of his career. The Chiefs are 46-4 (.920) when Mahomes gets the ball out in under 2.9 seconds on average in a game. The Chiefs are 14-10 (.583) when Mahomes holds the ball for over 3.0 seconds. That has been crucial to beating him the last three seasons. He has to get the ball out quickly to neutralize those great pass rushers.
Also, in that 42-30 win last year against the Eagles, the Chiefs ran the ball for 200 yards for only the second time in the Mahomes era. What is the lone area where the Eagles look suspect this season? The run defense that ranks 24th in yards per carry allowed. The Chiefs may have success running it again if they stick with it here, but even a good running game would not deter Mahomes from winning MVP if he is putting up a bunch of touchdown drives.
Besides, who is going to vote for Isiah Pacheco for Super Bowl MVP? No running back has won the award since Terrell Davis (1998 Broncos).
The credit will go to Mahomes as it usually does.
How I’m Betting Super Bowl MVP
If Hurts outplays Mahomes to win the MVP award, then I guess I’ll never hear the end of this from Philadelphia fans. But this is going to be a hedge, and you would be silly not to hedge when the quarterbacks are both +130 and every other player is +1600 or higher at this point.
If you like the Chiefs to win the game, then you should be all in on Mahomes for MVP. It is really that simple. It is so difficult for Kelce to supplant his quarterback as MVP that he would basically need a repeat of the Week 11 Chargers game where he caught all three of Mahomes’ touchdowns, including the game-winner on a YAC play. Against this defense, that is very unlikely.
If you like the Eagles to win, then do not go all in on Hurts. Spread it around to the longshots like Haason Reddick (+3400), A.J. Brown (+1800), and DeVonta Smith (+3100).
You never know when someone gets two interceptions to win MVP like James Bradberry (+15000) or CJ Gardner-Johnson (+15000). A $2 bet on either one of those would win $300. You would have to bet $230.77 on Hurts to win $300.
Personally, I do think Reddick is the best value pick around as he can Von Miller his way into this award. But at the end of the night, it would not be surprising to see Mahomes beat the odds and win this Super Bowl MVP for the second time.
Making history is sort of his thing.