3 Best Dark-Horse MVP Candidates Heading Into 2020 Season
By Max Staley
The 2020 campaign is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable seasons in recent memory. Fans don't have the benefit of a preseason to get a feel for these teams, and the organizations have less practice time than ever.
All that uncertainty could create real value for some savvy bettors, though. With that in mind, let's take a look at three of the best dark-horse candidates to win the 2020 NFL MVP award, according to odds provided by FanDuel Sportsbook.
3. Philip Rivers, QB, Indianapolis Colts (+3400)
Philip Rivers checks in with the best odds of anyone on this list. That's definitely a bit of a shock because he's coming off one of the worst seasons of his career. Still, there's reason to believe Rivers could be in for a bounce-back year. He played behind the league's second-worst pass-blocking offensive line in 2019, per Pro Football Focus. Combining his statuesque pocket presence with a line that bad is a recipe for disaster. In fact, it's been that way for a while. Rivers has played behind a bottom-five pass-blocking unit in each of the past three seasons, and his line has only cracked the top 20 once since 2008 (No. 18; 2009), per PFF. The Colts, meanwhile, were the league's seventh-best pass-blocking line in 2019, per Football Outsiders. If poor O-Line play was the source of Rivers' recent struggles, he could be in for a monster season in 2020.
2. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers (+4400)
Ben Roethlisberger is ranked outside of the 15 MVP candidates. That doesn't come close to capturing his upside. Of any AFC team not named the Ravens or Chiefs, the Steelers have the best chance at being a true Super Bowl contender in 2020. Pittsburgh was the NFL's best defense in Football Outsiders' weighted DVOA metrics, yet the team finished 8-8 as the Steelers were saddled with arguably the league's worst QB situation. A fully healthy Roethlisberger should change that without breaking a sweat. Plus, the last time we saw him play a full year (2018) he led the league in passing. Combining Pittsburgh's potential for an elite campaign with Roethlisberger's potential for a huge statistical season makes him a really compelling bet.
1. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions (+4400)
Matthew Stafford has the same odds as Roethlisberger and is tied for the 16th-best odds overall. That's way too low. Stafford played like an MVP last season and was more productive than virtually every name that's ahead of him on this list before a back injury cut his year short. That's mostly due to a change in offensive system. He was finally allowed to cut it loose in 2019, leading the NFL in average depth of target (aDOT) at 10.6. The results were undeniable. Stafford posted top-two marks among all passers in: adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A; 9.1), yards per game (312.4) and yards per attempt (8.6). He also finished with the league's fourth-best touchdown percentage (6.5) and sixth-best passer rating (106.0). Doubters would point out that the 3-12-1 Lions aren't going to win enough for Stafford to be a real candidate, but they were actually 3-4-1 with him healthy and just a few plays away from starting 5-3. If Stafford stays healthy this team is going to surprise some people.
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Max Staley is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Max Staley also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mstaley1212. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.