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Nine weeks down. Nine weeks to go. We're at the unofficial halfway point of the NFL season already. At this point, we have a pretty good idea what these teams are all about. Soon enough, we'll be pulling out the playoff scenario calculators and examining the divisional and wild-card races on a daily basis.
The MVP race is also heating up across the league. There's still half a season to go, so a lot can change. Last year at this point, many viewed Russell Wilson as the favorite to win the award. At the halfway mark, there are six quarterbacks with MVP odds listed at under 10-to-1 at BetMGM. While those quarterbacks are all deserving in their own way, I'm looking even lower on the list. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is a frontrunner for the MVP in my mind, and he sure isn't priced like one at +1100.
Reinvented Lamar has been sensational
In Week 9, Lamar Jackson led the Baltimore Ravens back from another double-digit second-half deficit in their win over the Minnesota Vikings. The Ravens are 3-1 this season when trailing at halftime by double digits. The rest of the NFL is 8-93 in that situation.
In the past, there were questions whether Jackson could dig his team out of a deficit. There were questions about his prowess as a passer. We knew he was an explosive athlete and a tremendous scrambler, but we questioned whether he could get it done with his arm.
This season, Baltimore has opened up its passing attack and Jackson has thrived. Currently, Jackson is averaging 276.1 passing yards per game. Prior to this season, his best average was 208.5 yards passing per game. He's also averaging 8.3 yards per attempt, up a full yard from last season and up 0.5 yards from his 2019 MVP season.
Jackson has maintained his efficiency as a runner. He's averaging 75 yards per game on the ground, which is up eight yards per game from last season. It's right in line with his MVP season in 2019, when he averaged a hair over 80 rushing yards per game.
Jackson ranks ninth in the league in terms of passing yards and sixth in the league in terms of rushing yards. Only running backs Derrick Henry, Jonathan Taylor, Nick Chubb, Joe Mixon and Ezekiel Elliott have more rushing yards than Jackson.
The Ravens' offense currently ranks second in yards per game at 427.9. With Jackson accounting for 351.1 yards per game, he's directly responsible for an insane 82.1% of Baltimore's offense.
Ravens winning despite lack of support, injuries
The Ravens currently have 16 players on the injured reserve. Their weekly injury report usually contains somewhere between 10-20 additional names. Despite this, Baltimore has a 6-2 record through eight games. The Ravens are substantial -185 favorites to win the AFC North over other competitive teams such as Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, which are all over .500.
It seems like at some point, the definition of MVP changed. I always viewed it as which player had the biggest positive impact on a winning team. It seems like it's evolved into being an award given to the most outstanding player with the gaudiest stats. If we're going to focus on the "valuable" part of the definition, it's hard to make an argument against Jackson.
Baltimore has developed a reputation over the past decade as a defensive force that makes it very hard to move the ball. That hasn't been the case this season. The Ravens rank 27th in opponent touchdowns allowed, 23rd in yards allowed per game and 21st in points allowed per game. Their pass defense has been particularly bad, as they're allowing 7.7 yards per pass, which ranks 28th in the league. Only the Washington Football Team is allowing more yards per game through the air.
Baltimore also leads the league in rushing yards per game, despite employing a committee of Le'Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray. Jackson's presence allows these three old running backs who were picked up off the scrap heap to have some semblance of success. When reading those names, remember that this is 2021 and not 2015.
We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the six quarterbacks who currently have better MVP odds than Lamar Jackson, who currently sits at +1100 to win the award.
Tom Brady is the biggest threat to Lamar Jackson in my opinion. There's no denying that what he's doing at his age is insane. We can't help but argue that Brady has a much better supporting cast on both sides of the ball. Also, we're sick of this guy already. Brady is a rightful co-favorite to win the MVP at +350.
Despite losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Bills' Josh Allen sits as a co-favorite to win the MVP at +350. This is now back-to-back unimpressive games from the Bills' offense against the Dolphins and Jaguars.
Kyler Murray didn't play this past weekend, and I think his MVP prospects took a slight hit. Murray sits at +500 to win the award, but anytime a player misses a game it hurts his chances. It also doesn't help that the Cardinals' offense looked just fine without him.
Matthew Stafford had his first dreadful game as a member of the Rams, but Stafford's MVP odds still sit at +750. Yes, Stafford has been a revelation for the Rams' offense, but this team is stacked on both sides of the ball. They made the playoffs without him last season and are only a few seasons removed from a Super Bowl appearance with Jared Goff.
Dak Prescott sits at +900 to win the MVP, and he's another quarterback coming off a bad game. Prescott also missed a game due to injury, which doesn't help his chances.
Aaron Rodgers rounds out the leaderboard. Rodgers has +900 odds to win the award, but I have a hard time seeing Rodgers being awarded for his antics this past week, even if his on-field performance is phenomenal.