Jan
01
2021

MVP Breakdown – NFL Week 16, NBA January

Welcome to MVP Breakdown, a weekly column where we break down the MVP frontrunners from all the major sports around the world!

We are in a weird place right now in terms of MVP contention, with the NFL season coming to an end and the NBA season just beginning. However, I feel like that makes this the perfect jumping off point for the series because the low number of MVP front runners means each one gets a little extra time committed to them.

NFL

Patrick Mahomes (+220) – Kansas City Chiefs

For the majority of the season, Patrick Mahomes was the MVP favorite, recapturing much of the magic that made his 2018 season so impressive. 38 touchdowns, 4740 yards passing, on only 6 interceptions (only one of which came before week 11), and only one loss all season, Mahomes has been absolutely electric most of the year.

However, over the last six weeks of the season that momentum has come to a screeching halt. 5 interceptions, only 13 touchdowns, 65% completion rating, no wins larger then one score (this actually stretches back to week 9). Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense has looked dysfunctional the last few weeks despite consistently winning.

Now this is all Mahomes fault: they have been on the road four of the last six weeks, four of the last six games against top ten defenses in terms of forcing turnovers, two of the last six games against top ten teams in terms of yards allowed. The team defense is letting teams run all over (tenth highest rushing yards per attempt allowed) and keep the offense on the sideline, which keeps games close and has forced Mahomes to lead 3 different fourth quarter comebacks and four time-consuming, game-clenching drives.

But above all else, it largely has to do with the Chiefs’ offensive line just not holding up. Mahomes has been sacked 22 times this season, hit 52 times, and pressured on 21.2% of dropbacks.

Further, Mahomes will not be playing in the Chiefs’ week 17 matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers, which only hurts his chances to win the award. Between the pressure his line puts on him, his poor performances in the late parts of the season, and his resting through week 17, he definitely seems unlikely to win the award.

Aaron Rodgers (-250) – Green Bay Packers

The new favorite to win the award, Aaron Rodgers has managed to turn what is essentially an XFL receiving core into an elite offense. With 4059 yards passing, 44 passing touchdowns, and only five interceptions, Aaron Rodgers is almost single-handedly dragging the Packers to the number one seed in the NFC playoffs.

Rodgers is being allowed to do this behind one of the best lines in the league, with almost every member of their front five being given ranks around the 90 mark by PFF. Rodgers is being pressured on only 13.8% of dropbacks and has only been hit 21 times despite the fact that he has been blitzed on almost 40% of dropbacks. The offensive lines success is largely why Rodgers has been so accurate this season, hitting his target on 81.9% of passes.

Rodgers looks set to take the award, barring some kind of catastrophic performance against the Chicago Bears this Sunday. It is not likely, last time the two met Rodgers popped off for 4 touchdowns, however it is not impossible. It is a December game in Chicago and the Bears need the win to get into the playoffs and save Matt Nagy’s job.

This award is always going to lack context, largely thanks to the casual and week-to-week nature of NFL fans and analyst. Mahomes playing poorly in the later parts of the season will make sure he is overlooked for the award in favor of Rodgers, even if Rodgers has played just as poorly as just as many games. The only difference is that they were spread out throughout the season and came as losses.

NBA

Kyrie Irving (+6000) – Brooklyn Nets

Okay, so this piece is supposed to focus on the MVP front runners, and strictly going by the bookies, Kyrie Irving is no where near a front runner. However, that seems outrageous, especially with how high up Kevin Durant is.

Kyrie Irving is averaging 11 field goals per game (KD is averaging 8.3), Kyrie is currently shooting 61% from the floor (KD is at 53.2%) with an EFG of 74.1% (KD at 62.8%). Kyrie is averaging 29.3 points per game (KD at 26.7) which not only leads the Nets, but is fourth in the league overall. He also leads the team in assists per game with 6, which is almost double Kevin Durant’s 3.3 assists per game.

Sure, it is early in the season and there is still a ton of basketball to go, but why in the world are Kyrie Irving’s MVP odds so poor? He is commanding any court he steps onto and looks to be back in his 2012/2013 form on a team with legitimate NBA Finals potential and aspirations.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (+450) – Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to be an MVP frontrunner in the early parts of every season until he retires. That is why Giannis is the second highest favored player for the MVP award right now.

Reality is that Giannis is not even near MVP form right now, especially compared to his last few seasons. He is making shots 75% the rate of the last two seasons, and is only 66% as effective from beyond the three point arch. This is largely why he is averaging almost eight or nine points less per game.

Add in two rebounds less per game and one less assist per game, and there are plenty of reasons to question what exactly is going on with Giannis.

Luka Doncic (+300) – Dallas Mavericks

The current odds on favorite to take home the MVP award, Luka Doncic is on a mission to prove that what he did in the bubble was not just a fluke. He currently may not be the best in the league, but as the team gets more healthy (currently missing Kristaps Porzingis, who should be back in early January), that could easily change.

He is currently averaging 27.7 points per game (sixth in the league), 6.7 assists per game (nineteenth in the league), is only given the ball away twice a game, and is averaging under one personal foul per game.

Although, what he is leaving on the table is almost more impressive then what he is achieving. Less then 45% percent from the floor, hitting an abysmal 12.5% from outside of the three point arch. He is not producing on defense either, with less a steal per game (.3) and less then a block per game (.3).

It is still very early in the season, so it is hard to be as critical of Giannis or Luka, but the early struggles are still worth noting.