Odds Tighten At NJ Online Sportsbooks Atop Heisman, NFL MVP Races

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What a difference a week can make.

The Heisman Trophy was a done deal one week ago — it belonged to Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The NFL MVP wasn’t quite as much of a lock, but Saints QB Drew Brees had positioned himself as the clear favorite.

Then as part of a strange sports weekend, Tagovailoa laid an egg against Georgia (10-for-25 with 2 interceptions and minus-21 rushing yards) and needed to be bailed out by backup Jalen Hurts, who led the Crimson Tide to a come-from-behind victory. That came two days after Brees threw for a mere 127 yards and the Saints offense only put up 10 points in a shocking loss to the Cowboys.

Now both season-end player awards are tight races again. And with about three-quarters of the NBA season still to go, that MVP award is up in the air too.

The Heisman gets awarded this Saturday night, so this is our last best chance to look at the sports betting odds for all of the awards at the various New Jersey online books. What follows is a rundown of all the contenders for top individual college football, NFL, and NBA honors.

(We would have included the NHL’s Hart Trophy as well, but there are no odds posted at any of the NJ online books on that one. Connor McDavid would be a clear favorite if there was any confidence that he could lead the mediocre Oilers to the playoffs, but instead Nathan MacKinnon, Nikita Kucherov, and John Gibson are all in the mix.)

Heisman Trophy

Tagovailoa was running away with this thing, to the point that you had to lay -700 if you wanted him at one stage late in the season. But now the odds look like this (note that DraftKings, 888sport, and Play Sugarhouse are all powered by Kambi and all have the same odds):

PlayerFanDuel SportsbookKambi sites
Kyler Murray-140-143
Tua Tagovailoa-105+100
Dwayne Haskins+2900+3300

Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray became the favorite overnight by leading the Sooners to the Big 12 championship with three TD passes while Tua faltered. He has a higher completion percentage (70.8% to 67.6%), 700 more passing yards, and three more TDs (but also three more INTs) than Tagovailoa. Need another differentiator? Murray has 892 rushing yards and has run the ball into the end zone 11 times.

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So why isn’t Murray a sure thing? Why is he -140 at FanDuel Sportsbook and an ever-so-slightly less appealing -143 at the Kambi sites?

Because an estimated 15% of Heisman ballots were submitted before this past Saturday’s games. (Shout-out to those voters who couldn’t be troubled to wait and see what happens in each player’s crucial final pre-Bowl game.)

It’s tricky for bettors, trying to get inside the minds of the voters to determine whether they’ll be too stubborn to make a final-week pivot from the top candidate all season long to the most deserving candidate now. Still, Murray is where the smart money should probably go. (And by the way, third finalist Dwayne Haskins’ stats are pretty, but even at +3300, you’d be lighting money on fire with that one.)

NFL MVP

Like the Heisman, this appears to be a two-man race … although there are still a few long shots to consider who can’t be completely counted out. Here are the latest odds in NJ:

PlayerFanDuel SportsbookKambi sites
Drew Brees-135-134
Patrick Mahomes+135+115
Todd Gurley+2300+2000
Jared Goff+3000+2000
Philip Rivers+3500+2000
Russell Wilson+10000+3300

Brees was as short as -500 in some spots heading into Week 13, but now it’s almost a coin flip again between him and Mahomes. The raw stats favor the Chiefs’ signal-caller: He’s thrown for 700 more yards and 11 more TDs. With 41 touchdown passes, Mahomes has a shot at Peyton Manning’s single-season record of 55. But Brees is more efficient (a ridiculous 75.5% completion rate) and has thrown only three picks, compared to 10 for Mahomes.

The talent surrounding them on offense pretty well evens out. And whereas Brees had a big edge in terms of narrative (which can certainly influence voters) because he’s 39 years old and has never won an MVP award, that might have turned a bit this week with Mahomes now coping with the loss of running back Kareem Hunt.

In the end, this might come down to which team finishes with the better record. The Saints and Chiefs are both 10-2 with four games to go.

Here’s the thing: the L.A. Rams are 11-1. What if they finish 15-1 (very possible) and neither of their closest competitors finish better than 13-3? And what if Todd Gurley, who leads the league in rushing yards and TDs, finishes with a few big games and ends up with more than 100 rushing yards per game and close to 30 TDs? Especially if the top two QBs split the vote a little bit, a star running back on the best team in the NFL is still an interesting bet at 23/1.

Every single player in the mix, except for Brees, is a better bet at FanDuel than at the other sites, and that includes two longshots worth considering.

It borders on the impossible, but could Philip Rivers steal the award with a spectacular statistical finish and the Chargers catching the Chiefs to take the AFC’s top seed? The man is expecting his ninth kid; never count him out.

Russell Wilson, as impressive as he’s been of late in carrying a mediocre team to a probably playoff berth, has no realistic chance of being named MVP. But when you see that he’s +3300 at most sites and +10000 at FanDuel, you have to at least consider a tiny bet.

NBA MVP

It’s way too soon for this to be a two-man race. At the moment, it feels like a five-man race, with four more lurking.

Here are the current odds in New Jersey (with BetStars NJ, which doesn’t have Heisman or NFL MVP odds posted, included in this one):

PlayerFanDuel SportsbookKambi sitesBetStars NJ
Giannis Antetokounmpo+240+250+275
LeBron James+460+300+650
Anthony Davis+500+500+550
Stephen Curry+600+500+1100
Kawhi Leonard+750+700+900
Joel Embiid+1100+900+700
Kevin Durant+1500+1000+1400
James Harden+1500+1000+1400
Nikola Jokic+5000+2500+15000

The value of downloading all the apps and doing some comparison shopping is on display here. For six of the nine candidates, BetStars offers the best value. In some cases, it’s a moderate difference. But if you bet LeBron James, Stephen Curry, or Nikola Jokic anywhere else, you’re just not taking proper advantage of the opportunity made available in the NJ market.

(If you’re betting on Jokic at all, you’re probably behaving like a sucker, but 150/1 on a big man with his constant triple-double potential has to get the juices flowing a little.)

Harden and Durant are the top two in the league in points-per-game, but they feel like extreme long shots — Harden because he won the award last year and his team has been struggling, Durant because it’s hard for him to gain separation from teammate Stephen Curry. You can probably cross off Curry for the same reason, and because he’s missed 11 games already and history tells us you need to play at least 70 out of 82 to have a shot at MVP.

That leaves five realistic candidates to consider:

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo has been brilliant so far, averaging 27.6 points, 13.2 boards, and 6 assists as the lone superstar on a 15-7 Bucks team. He’s also 23 years old, a fresh face for whom voters will be excited to cast ballots.
  • LeBron isn’t a fresh face, but he has the rag-tag Lakers in contention at 14-9 and is averaging 27.8, 7.7, and 6.7 at age 33. Those +650 odds on BetStars — more than double the payout available at the Kambi sites! — are appealing.
  • Anthony Davis’ Pelicans are sub-.500, so they’ll need to improve to give “The Brow” a chance at MVP, but his 28-13-5 averages, with 2.7 blocks per game, are impossible to ignore.
  • Kawhi Leonard is the best player on the best team in the league right now, the 20-5 Raptors. Will they finish with the best record? If so, two-way superstar Kawhi will get, and deserve, a lot of the credit. But he’s missed six games already; keep an eye on those DNPs.
  • Joel Embiid is averaging 27 points and 13.4 rebounds with 3.5 assists and 2 blocks — and the previously injury-prone center hasn’t missed a game and is playing more than 34 minutes per. The Sixers are 17-8, though they’ve been winning with two additional potential all-stars, Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons, sharing the court with Embiid.

There are a lot of different directions for bettors to go with their money for NBA MVP. The only indefensible wager right now is one made at the wrong site, one that leaves money on the table.

Photo by Jamie Lamor Thompson / Shutterstock.com

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Eric Raskin

Eric is a veteran writer, editor, and podcaster in the sports and gaming industries. He was the editor-in-chief of the poker magazine All In for nearly a decade, is the author of the book The Moneymaker Effect, and has contributed to such outlets as ESPN.com, Grantland.com, and Playboy.

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