Super Bowl 55 – MVP Predictions

Feb. 4, 2021

NFL Expert

Super Bowl 55 MVP Betting Preview

For the fourth time in five years the end of January has been spent digging into all the Tom Brady Super Bowl numbers there have been, and I will not shed a tear when Brady retires and this late-January handicapping routine doesn't have to pour over the same numbers again and again.

Personal frustration aside though, this year's SB Most Valuable Player race has some interesting players involved in it, and where bettors land on individual ticket selection is always intriguing.

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Super Bowl MVP History – Handicapping Positions

This award has long been won by quarterbacks and rightfully so.

Of the previous 55 winners (SB XII had co-MVP's), 30 of them have now come from the quarterback position after Kansas City Chiefs signal caller Patrick Mahomes won the award last year.

As the guys who touch the ball the most, they tend to have the most impact on the game, so it's easy to see why the award is dominated by the position.

Including the co-MVP year in SB XII that had two Cowboys defensive players win the award, defensive and/or special teams players have 11 times, including twice in the past seven years.

Defensive guys are always going to be long shots for this award and need to generally have a profound impact on the game – which usually includes touching the ball in some regard (forcing/recovering fumbles, INT's) – and forcing turnovers might prove to be the separation the eventual winner gets/needs to be a champion this year.

After that, it's the rest of the offensive positions (TE, RB, WR), and historically no tight end has ever won a MVP award, while running backs and wide receivers are tied with seven victories each.

Given that this is a Super Bowl that is a rematch from the regular season, there are some unique MVP histories in those 13 specific past Super Bowls that fit that criteria as well. Probably a good place to start to get the momentum going in the right direction for this piece.

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Super Bowl MVP History – Handicapping Regular Season Rematches

Earlier in the year I brought up the fact that only two Super Bowls since realignment came in 2002 were rematches from the regular season, and both were the New York Giants vs. New England Patriots games that saw New York win the title on both occasions.

This year's game between KC and Tampa Bay will be the third such occasion in that span, but prior to that there had been 11 other applicable Super Bowls meeting the regular season rematch criteria, and here's what they were and who the MVP's of those respective Super Bowls were:

Super Bowl History - Rematch from Regular Season
Year SB Result SB MVP
1977 Cowboys 27 vs. Broncos 10 DL Harvey Martin, DL Randy White
1980 Raiders 20 vs. Eagles 10 QB Jim Plunkett
1981 49ers 26 vs. Bengals 21 QB Joe Montana
1983 Raiders 38 vs. Redskins 9 RB Marcus Allen
1985 Bears 46 vs. Patriots 10 DE Richard Dent
1986 Giants 39 vs. Broncos 20 QB Phil Simms
1990 Giants 20 vs. Bills 19 RB Ottis Anderson
1993 Cowboys 30 vs. Bills 13 RB Emmitt Smith
1994 49ers 49 vs. Chargers 26 QB Steve Young
1999 Rams 23 vs. Titans 16 QB Kurt Warner
2001 Patriots 20 vs. Rams 17 QB Tom Brady
2007 Giants 17 vs. Patriots 14 QB Eli Manning
2011 Giants 21 vs. Patriots 17 QB Eli Manning

Interestingly enough, the QB position dominates this award in general as it is, and in the last five Super Bowls that have been a regular season rematch, the QB has won the award.

Tom Brady has been involved in the last three of those (two losses to NYG, one win over St Louis Rams) and who knows, with how weird a year 2020 was overall, maybe it's fitting that Brady gets to this game for a fourth straight time and ultimately goes 2-2 SU in those games.

After all, another thing to note from those past Super Bowls in the list is the fact that two of them have a very similar situation to this year's game in that one team was trying to repeat as champs (Washington in 1983, Dallas in 1993).

In both of those instances, the eventual Super Bowl winner (Oakland in 1983, Dallas in 1993) was the team that actually LOST the regular season meeting, as things just always seem to slide in place for Brady.

As a side note – total bettors should note that the record in those 13 Super Bowls was 10-3 to the Under.

What's more interesting from a MVP standpoint though, is that of those 13 games, five of them did see non-QB's win the award, and in terms of relative ratios for those specific positions winning the MVP over the course of all Super Bowls, the numbers aren't bad at all.

For instance, only seven RB's have ever won the Super Bowl MVP award, but nearly half of them (3) came during these regular season rematch games.

Defensive/special teams guys have won the MVP award 11 times overall, but two of those have come in this 13-game Super Bowl sample size.

We've also never had a WR or TE ever win in those 13 games, so it can serve to whittle the field down.

That's what I prefer to do this week, and given that those have been the only positions picked in very similar scenarios as we've got in SB 55, let's go with one of each for this year's game.

Super Bowl 55 MVP Best Bets

Favorite: Tom Brady (+210)

The “if you can't beat em, join em” trope has long been a favorite in flipping a professional wrestler heel, and it's become the standing operating procedure for most top tier NBA superstars in today's game the past decade or so.

Brady has long been pretty much the motto for every NBA superstar in today's game, but it's part of the approach behind my backing of Brady for his record-extending 5th Super Bowl MVP.

I'm tired of seeing my two weeks at the end of January spent researching and writing about Tom Brady-related props, and it was a lot of digging this year to find what I had never before in learning about the favorable flag Brady has gotten from the zebras in his previous nine Super Bowl appearances.

But when Brady's now got double the sample size of Super Bowl appearances than any other QB the NFL has ever seen – a phenomenal feat in it's own right – and Brady's teams have finished with fewer penalty yards than their Super Bowl opponent in 7 of those 9 games (77.77%), and done so in each of his last four Super Bowl appearances, it's not a reach to go into this game assuming that's going to be the case once again.

After all, no team benefited from a bigger penalty yardage difference than Tampa did this year (+300 yards), as I find it hilarious how it all just fits together perfectly.

Not all penalties are created equal as I've said before, but if Kansas City is going to be the team that's on the back foot with the flag, you've got to figure Brady will make the most of those second chance/gained yardage scenarios.

QB's never a bad option as a MVP favorite given the overall history for the position, as well as the fact that the last five times we've had a regular season rematch be the Superbowl, a QB has won the MVP as that earlier chart shows. Can something fit more perfectly than it already does?

Furthermore, isn't the prevailing consensus right now in the league on how to beat Mahomes and the Chiefs is to out-gun them and win in a high-scoring shootout? The Raiders were the only ones to beat Mahomes this year and that score was 40-32.

In fact, Mahomes' last three losses as a starter have been that 40-32 loss to Las Vegas this year, a 35-32 to Tennessee in November of 2019, and 31-24 defeat to Houston about a month earlier in 2019.

And who can forget Brady's AFC Championship win over Mahomes and KC by a 37-31 final score the year prior.

If that's the kind of score we get from a Tampa Bay win here, Brady's going to have a huge hand in making that happen, and throw in a bit of voter sentiment for the GOAT on top of that type of performance and +210 might feel a bit like stealing in the end.

And if it happens, maybe Brady gets some thoughts about going out on top over the summer and I don't have to have any concerns about spending another two weeks at the end of January trying to find something that's not already out there.

But who knows, the alternative to a Bucs win would be that next year I could be just as aggravated spending the third straight year digging into Mahomes/KC Super Bowl numbers. At least there won't be as many seasons to go throw for Mahomes yet.

Bucs QB Tom Brady has captured four Super Bowl MVP awards in his career, all coming with the New England Patriots. (AP)

Mid-Range: Darrel Williams +4000

Given that it is a rematch from the regular season, this could be a Super Bowl that plays out where the team that throws more successful curveballs at their opponent ultimately wins the game.

It's the, “I think, you think I'm going to this, so I'm going to do that” equation that only expands and compounds itself from there as poker players know all about.

Well, Mahomes threw for 462 yards and 3 TD's in the first meeting, and that's with KC taking their foot off the gas early in the 2nd half as Tampa made the final score much closer than it should be. Therefore, it's reasonable to expect that Tampa will be overly paired for Mahomes aerial attack again, and if you're KC, keeping the ball in the hands of your best player (Mahomes) makes complete sense.

But with both teams knowing that, one of KC's “curveballs” could be to come out looking to run the ball a lot against a Tampa defense that was best in the NFL in rush yards allowed per game (81.4).

On the surface, running the ball against the league's best rush defense when you've got Mahomes appears to make little sense, but if Tampa's geared up to stop the pass, huge running lanes will be open for the Chiefs to exploit.

And despite all the name brand recognition, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Le'Veon Bell get in that KC backfield, it's actually Williams who the Chiefs appear to trust the most.

Williams was almost forced into the bulk carries against Cleveland (13-for-78 yards), and finished with 13 carries against Buffalo as well, for 52 yards.

This is not a thing unique to this season and Bell/Edwards-Helaire's bumps and bruises, as Williams was the lead back for KC in the Super Bowl last year (17 carries for 104 yards) and had a strong case for MVP himself. KC still went out and drafted a RB at the end of the 1st round to “replace” him, and then brought in Bell on top of it.

Yet, here in January, it's Williams who KC head coach Andy Reid seemingly implicitly trusts to be out there, and even against a numerically stout rush defense like Tampa's, Williams is plenty capable of exploiting it should the Bucs be heavily shaded to stop Mahomes through the air.

Considering we've had so few RB's win (7) the MVP award overall, when three of them – nearly half - have come in these 13 Super Bowls that were regular season rematches, backing Williams at this price with the ultra-contrarian angle in mind makes sense.

Longshot: Carlton Davis III +20000

Tampa's got to gear up to stop KC's passing game regardless, and if the Bucs are to win and do so by forcing numerous Mahomes turnovers and/or shutting down his biggest weapons (Hill, Kelce), then a defensive guy may be the one who ends up playing well above his head to get this award.

Heck, Tampa's only other Super Bowl appearance as an organization saw defensive back Dexter Jackson win the MVP award with two first-half interceptions that completely flipped that game on it's head.

Coincidentally enough, that was also a Super Bowl matchup against an AFC West foe – Oakland – and one that came in with an offense that chucked it around everywhere and was expected to be lighting up the Bucs all game.

Sound familiar to perspectives on the 2020 Chiefs? The 48-21 final score would make plenty of sense this year as well with how high the total is.

Davis was the guy that got absolutely torched by Tyreek Hill in that first meeting, being the guy who got beat on both of Hill's 1st quarter TD's (75 and 44 yards respectively) and after that kind of success and possibly “letting up a bit” later on in the game, how can the Chiefs not come into this Super Bowl aiming to go after Davis again?

Whether or not Tampa decides to give Davis much more help this time remains to be seen, but they'll still put the toughest task on his shoulders, and sometimes things have a funny way of working themselves back to even in this world. Davis couldn't have looked in that regular season matchup vs KC. Maybe after the Super Bowl it ends up being that he couldn't have looked any better in the return matchup.

You know he's going to be tested, and if he's the one that lives up to those tests and possibly even flips it around completely with a turnover or two. I believe that at a 200/1 price tag, taking a flyer on a guy that was great all year, but completely exposed against this exact opponent (KC), and knows he'll be attacked again it's the worst MVP betting option in the world.

Davis has now seen Hill's speed first hand, so the adjustments from him will be there. If he can turn those adjustments and opportunities into successful plays in containing this KC aerial attack, Davis could be the second coming of Dexter Jackson in the city of Tampa.

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