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2020 NFL MVP odds and betting predictions: Mahomes leads the charge

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With NFL free agency in full swing and the draft just around the corner, plenty of NFL futures odds have hit the betting board.

We take a look at the odds to win the 2020 MVP award, break down the favorites and bring you some of our favorite value bets.

ODDS TO WIN NFL MVP

Player Odds to win (as of March 18)
Patrick Mahomes +350
Lamar Jackson +500
Russell Wilson +500
Drew Brees +1,400
Aaron Rodgers +1,600
Deshaun Watson +1,800
Carson Wentz +1,800
Dak Prescott +2,200
Jimmy Garrapolo +2,500
Tom Brady +2,500
Kyler Murray +2,500

THE FAVORITES

Patrick Mahomes +350

Mahomes took home the MVP trophy in 2018 after tossing 50 touchdowns. Although his numbers dipped last season he still played extremely well despite a mid-season knee injury that hampered him for a few games. Mahomes did ball out in the playoffs, throwing for 901 yards and 10 TDs in three games and capping it off with the Super Bowl MVP in Miami.

The Chiefs should be in for another big year in 2020 despite the big target that will be on their backs. Expect Mahomes to be back in the mix for MVP honors at the helm of a high-scoring offense featuring Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins.

Lamar Jackson +500

Jackson ran away (hardy har har) with the MVP award last season after throwing for 3,127 yards and 36 TDs while piling up another 1206 yards and seven scores on the ground. Jackson became just the second unanimous MVP in NFL history garnering all 50 votes.

Jackson wasn’t at his best in the AFC Divisional Round when the Ravens got upset by the Tennessee Titans, but he still managed 508 total yards in that contest despite multiple drops from his butter-fingered wide receivers.

While detractors point out that defenses will gameplan how to stop Jackson this season, they sure didn’t seem to figure him out in the second half of last year. Others say it’s just a matter of time before he gets injured due to his usage in the run game. But the truth is any QB can get injured at any time and Jackson (unlike someone like Cam Newton) doesn’t seek out contact so defenders rarely get clean hits on him.

The Ravens should be one of the best teams in the NFL again in 2020 after adding Calais Campbell to their defense, but they have yet to upgrade their talent at WR while the retirement of eight-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda leaves a hole in the middle of their line. Still being able to grab the 23-year-old reigning MVP at +500 is pretty good value.

Russell Wilson +500

For the second year in a row Wilson put his team on the back and could have won MVP if not for a record-breaking campaign from the eventual winner. Over the last two seasons Wilson has thrown for 66 touchdown passes against just 12 interceptions while finishing with a passer rating over 106, despite average weapons and a subpar offensive line.

Don’t expect the Seahawks to be much better this season and although Wilson deserves to be in the MVP conversation I’m not sure he should have the same odds as Jackson.

BEST VALUE BETS

Aaron Rodgers +1,600

Rodgers had one of his worst statistical years in 2019, completing 62 percent of his passes for 4,002 yards. But he still had an impressive 26:4 touchdown to interception ratio and led the Packers to a 13-3 record.

The Green Bay QB is still one of the best players in the league and at 36 years of age should have a few more years at an elite level. The Packers do need to get Rodgers some help, because other than DeVante Adams they don’t seem to have a starting caliber receiver on their roster.

Green Bay might not have enough salary cap room to make a big splash in free agency but a depth WR would be nice and if they were to add a top wideout in a loaded draft class of receivers, Rodgers could return to his MVP days.

Kyler Murray +2,500

Lamar Jackson made it back-to-back years that a sophomore QB took home the MVP award. If you’re searching for who could be this season’s Jackson or Mahomes look no further than last year’s Rookie of the Year in Murray.

Murray is now in his second year in Kliff Kingsbury’s system and he should have plenty of weapons. The trade for DeAndre Hopkins was huge but the Cards also have reliable veteran Larry Fitzgerald along with promising youngsters Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella in their receiving corps. Out of the backfield, Kenyan Drake’s performance down the stretch indicated that he can be a No. 1 running back.

Michael Thomas +10,000

OK, I realize that no wide receiver has ever won MVP (including Jerry Rice) but hear me out. Thomas is a record-breaking WR entering the prime of his career, there is nobody else in New Orleans to steal targets from him and the Saints should once again be a Super Bowl contender.

There was even some chatter about him wining the MVP award last year, although he had to “settle” for the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award after catching 149 passes for 1,725 yards. Is he a long shot compared to some of the quarterbacks ahead of him on the list? Absolutely, but at +10,000 we think he’s worth taking a flier on.

UNDERSTANDING NFL MVP ODDS

Most sportsbooks will display odds in the American format as listed above. When separated from the MVP pack in the final month of the season, his odds had a minus (-) sign ahead of the number like this.

  • Lamar Jackson -400

That means that a bettor in December had to wager $400 to win $100 by betting on Jackson. Since this year’s race hasn’t even begun yet, every candidate currently has a (+) sign in front of their number.

  • Patrick Mahomes +350

With Mahomes’ current NFL MVP odds, a bettor stands to profit $150 for every $100 wagered on him.

If American odds aren’t your thing, simply use a tool like our odds converter to switch the odds to decimal or fractional format. Most online sportsbooks also give you the option to change the odds format that you see.

HOW TO BET FUTURES ODDS

Futures betting is different than betting on an individual game because you need to consider the long haul as opposed to a single event. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when betting futures odds.

Change your strategy at different points in the season

While some futures bets must be placed before the season begins and are then removed off the board (such as team win totals), other wagers will change odds as the season goes on.

If you are wagering money on a futures bet with changing odds keep in mind that there is less variance at the beginning of the season (when more players and teams are still in contention) and more variance as the season goes on (when teams and players at the top separate themselves from those at the bottom).

In the preseason and beginning of the season, betting on dark horses can prove very profitable. But as the season continues, expect to see odds tighten around the favorites. At that point it becomes wise to focus on the players near the top of the odds board and betting big underdogs is practically like giving your money away.

Look for value with underdogs

While the bigger names tend to be strong favorites, there are also live long shots that can provide tremendous value. Look at younger players on the verge of breaking out, or guys that have already been playing at a high level but could take the next step now that they are in an ideal situation with a new team, coach or system.

Other players that can give a great payout are established stars coming off under-performing years due to injuries or other factors. If you’re lucky you might be able to catch them in a bounce-back year.

Follow the narrative

When placing futures bets on individual awards, keep in mind that voters, not a scoreboard are often the deciding factor. Voters can be influenced by a variety of factors, including media coverage and public opinion. Consider what the media narrative is for a particular season and which players they seem to be rooting for and against.

For example in Lebron James’ first season in Miami he was viewed as a villain or heel by the media and Derrick Rose who ended up winning MVP was the perfect foil for that. When Ron Dayne won the Heisman trophy back in 1999 it was viewed by many as a well-deserved reward for his entire career at Wisconsin.

Research historical trends

Historical trends, especially recent ones, can give you a good idea of which way voters tend to lean.

The NBA MVP for example, almost always goes to a player on the best or second-best regular season team in the league. While the NFL MVP has been handed out to a quarterback in 12 of the last 13 seasons.

Identifying those trends is a good way to seperate the true contenders from the pretenders.

Longshots to consider when betting the Shoemaker Mile

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Monday’s Shoemaker Miles Stakes at Santa Anita Park is a great race for a number of reasons. For starters, the Shoemaker Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race that offers the winner a guaranteed spot in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland.

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

The race also features last year’s Preakness Stakes winner, War of Will, making his season debut. Despite his triumphs on the dirt in 2019, War of Will started his career on the turf and his pedigree suggests that he’s very likely to be just as successful on the grass. That said, the Shoemaker Mile will be his first start off of a six-month break, and I’m going to try to take a swing or two with some horses who could upset the apple cart at longer odds.

Let’s start out with the horse on the rail, Without Parole. He won the Group 1 St. James’s Palace Stakes going a mile at Ascot back in 2018. His three other career wins have all came at this mile distance as well. Granted, he hasn’t won in six races since the St. James’s Palace but he did finish a fast-closing third two starts ago in a much tougher U.S. debut in the TVG Breeders’ Cup MileIrad Ortiz Jr. rode Without Parole in that race and he will reclaim the mount on him again on Monday.

Without Parole has only had one race this year and it was in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational in which he finished second to last. However, he had several excuses right from the start of that race when he got squeezed coming out of the gate. He also raced in traffic throughout and got cut off several times in the stretch before Frankie Dettori — who had come from Europe to ride him at Gulfstream — finally just wrapped up on him. The Pegasus World Cup Turf also was a race that didn’t allow him to run on Lasix (furosemide) after he’d shown significant improvement racing on Lasix for the first time at the Breeders’ Cup.

Stream the 2020 Shoemaker Mile live here

How much of a factor might Lasix be for some horses? Well, let’s next look at the horse who finished last in the Pegasus World Cup Turf: Next Shares. In his following start (back on Lasix) in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes, Next Shares finished third (beaten just a neck) to River Boyne. Both Next Shares and River Boyne return in the Shoemaker Mile and I prefer the former as a pace play who has plenty of back-class. If you rewatch the Kilroe Mile, Next Shares covered a lot more ground than River Boyne. With a similar effort, Next Shares could certainly turn the tables.

The other thing to like about Next Shares is that his trainer, Richard Baltas, has entered speedster Neptune’s Storm in the Shoemaker Mile. That horse, along with Voodoo Song, should ensure a very brisk pace up front — they’ll also be kept honest by Blitzkrieg and War of Will, both of whom usually race on or near the lead. All of that speed adds up to good news for Next Shares. He’s a Grade 1 winner who has always done his best running when he’s had some pace to run into. The other two keys for him (like all stalking or closing-type runners) is clear running room late, and hopefully he’ll get that with Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez taking the mount.

Lastly, we should take a look at True Valour. It’s hard to make much of an excuse for his flat finish in the Kilroe last out, but he’s truly performed better than what his results on paper might indicate. In the Thunder Road Stakes in February, he looked pretty keen early and it took him a few strides to settle down without throwing his head around and fighting his rider. Turning for home, it was clear that jockey Andrea Atzeni had plenty of horse under him but was just waiting for some running room. It ended up coming too late because River Boyne was in a better spot and had already taken command. True Valour did split horses nicely in the closing stages and was half a jump away from finishing second.

If you go back to the Breeders’ Cup Mile, True Valour had excuses there, too. He was up on heels early and he again took a little bit of time to settle down into a comfortable stride. Then, turning for him, he was just waiting for running room but instead got stuck behind a wall of horses. True Valour ended up steadying pretty badly and lost all chance at that point. I’m a little worried about how headstrong he tends to be early in races, but there’s a scenario here that could have at least two horses battling for the lead early and opening up some daylight on the rest of the field. That means he’ll be less likely to be running up on anyone’s heels and it also ensures that he’ll have a nice setup. Whether he can navigate clear passage late in the race is a separate matter.

Longshot Selections

#1 Without Parole

#3 Next Shares

#2 True Valour

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

How to bet an exacta on a horse race

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Betting an exacta can present a challenge on several levels.

There is, of course, the primary need to analyze past performances and decide which horses are going to finish first and second.

Yet because of the inherently lower payoffs as opposed to what you’ll find in a Pick 3 or Pick 4, you’ll need to structure your wagers effectively in order to turn your selections into a profitable wager.

For starters, an exacta can be a simple wager. If you like two horses equally, you can just box them in the exacta and collect so long as they finish 1-2 in any order. If you like one of them a little more, you can then bet more on the one you prefer, say $10 on a 1-2 exacta and $5 on 2-1.

If you’re a little more uncertain, make sure you structure your bet around the size of the field and the probable payoffs.

If you like a longshot, the higher probable payoffs give you the cushion you need to wager on more combinations and still turn a nice profit.

But if you’re dealing with favorites or horses at relatively low odds, you have to wager more efficiently to preserve your profit.

In a field of six or less, you’re best to either focus on one horse or box two of them instead of boxing three or more horses because of the small payouts the bet will most likely generate.

In a field of seven, a wise strategy would be to box your top two choices and then, if you are worried about other horses, play them top and/or bottom other the other horses. For example, box 1-2, then bet 1-2 over 3-4 and 3-4 over 1-2. This way you are getting coverage on four horses without having to box them.

Once you get an eight-horse field, as long as there is not an overwhelming favorite, you can expand the number of horses you box since the payoffs will typically be higher, giving you a better opportunity to offset the inevitable array of losing tickets in a boxed wager.