Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023 | 2 a.m.
The last seven honorees of the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award have led league in expected points added per dropback during their winning seasons.
That streak appears to be at great risk heading into the final month and a half this year because the runaway leader by the metric is 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy.
The second-year quarterback, former “Mr. Irrelevant” as the last pick of the NFL Draft just can’t quite seem to garner the respect he deserves.
He’s as high as a 14-to-1 sixth choice to win the MVP (at BetMGM and Boyd Sports) behind Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Never mind that Purdy has outplayed all of them through the first 12 weeks.
There’s some understandable aversion to advanced statistics, but the basic ones indicate the same thing. Consider that Purdy is throwing for 9.4 yards per pass attempt this season — a full yard higher than Tagovailoa and Prescott in second.
But 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and the team’s arsenal of weapons, headlined by running back Christian McCaffrey, receive the lion’s share of the credit from most fans and analysts.
If there’s ever a chance of the perception and odds changing, it’s going to happen this week.
Purdy goes up against the consensus MVP favorite Hurts, who’s as low as +125 (i.e. risking $100 to win $125) and outdueling him may ignite the 49er passer’s candidacy.
Any bettor who likes Purdy should therefore place a wager on him to win the MVP now. There’s a path right in front of him this week to get deeper into the conversation, which iswhere he belongs.
Read below to find a pick on San Francisco at Philadelphia and every other Week 13 contest. Games are labeled in three separate confidence categories — plays, leans and guesses — with individual records attached. Lines are the best available in Las Vegas on the chosen side at publication time. The overall record for the year stands at 89-89-2.
Arizona Cardinals +6 at Pittsburgh Steelers With Kyler Murray back on the field, the Cardinals’ offense is magnitudes more explosive than the Steelers’ offense. The Rams held Murray in check last week during their 37-14 win as 2.5-point favorites but they have more intimate knowledge of him and the Cardinals overall as a divisional rival. The Steelers’ offense looked revitalized under new offensive coordinator Ike Taylor in last week’s 16-10 win over the Bengals as 1-point favorites but there’s as much of a chance it was a one-game mirage as something that will stick.
Carolina Panthers +5.5 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers This isn’t about the Panthers’ coaching change from Frank Reich to Chris Tabor, though it can only help and might be a bonus for backing the team with the NFL’s worst record. I had already bet Carolina in this spot though, out of a concern that a Tampa Bay offense rating 22nd in the league by the DVOA ratings looks ill-equipped to win any game by margin.
Miami Dolphins -9 at Washington Commanders The Commanders rate last in the league in defending the pass per the DVOA ratings and have seen their ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks drop precipitously. They do not set up as a team well-positioned to knock off the high-flying Dolphins, even though the betting market has curiously resisted ever letting this number get to double digits where it may belong.
Houston Texans -3.5 vs. Denver Broncos Denver has improved significantly but a large deal of good fortune has gone into its five-game winning streak considering it’s won three of the games by less than three points. Houston’s statistical profile is much superior. But this spread would need to drop back to down to -3, which appears highly unlikely, to upgrade to a play.
Green Bay Packers +6.5 vs. Kansas City Chiefs The spot much favors Green Bay, which is surging via two consecutive straight-up and against the spread victories and now gets extra time to rest off a 29-22 Thanksgiving win over Detroit as 8.5-point underdogs. Kansas City meanwhile is playing in back-to-back road games while a defense that’s been leading it most of the way has shown signs of moderate decline recently.
Cleveland Browns +3.5 at Los Angeles Rams The Browns have practiced all week in Los Angeles to avoid cross-country travel on back-to-back weeks, which is always a positive. Rightful Defensive Player of the Year favorite Myles Garrett (as low as +120) is dealing with a shoulder injury but has vowed to play through it. That’s enough to back the Browns here, as Garrett is the rare defensive player who’s probably worth at least a whole point on the spread.
Tennessee Titans +1 vs. Indianapolis Colts While on the topic of awards soapboxes, Shane Steichen should be the NFL Coach of the Year frontrunner at the moment even though he’s unlikely to win the honor and as high as 15-to-1 in the betting market. No one has gotten more production out of fewer parts. Regression should be coming though and it might arrive on the road against a team with a defense that matches up well against an Indianapolis offense now playing without injured running back Jonathan Taylor.
Jacksonville Jaguars -8 vs. Cincinnati Bengals The chance to keep fading a Bengals’ team that always had a litany of issues now-injured quarterback Joe Burrow made up for might be worth taking. Cincinnati was weakened this year even before Burrow went down with a wrist injury, as its defense hadn’t shown an ability to make up for a spate of free-agent defections.
New Orleans Saints +4.5 vs. Detroit Lions The Saints’ injury report is a minefield with a cluster injury at receiver now paired with an already beaten-up defense. It’s a justifiable reason for this spread shooting higher than it ever would be otherwise. But, if New Orleans gets some positive news throughout the week and a few questionable players wind up getting ruled in, the spread will drop back down.
New York Jets +3 vs. Atlanta Falcons This total is sitting as low as over/under 33.5 points and could dip even more. Not only are the offenses bottom-tier but the weather forecast at MetLife Stadium is calling for potential rain and wind. The Falcons should be favored, but the minuscule scoring environment should be enough to keep the spread below the key number of a field goal.
Seattle Seahawks +9 at Dallas Cowboys The Seahawks closed a 7-point favorite at the 49ers last week. And, yes, they got blown out 31-13 but do they really deserve to have two more points added to the spread for a road game at a lesser Dallas side? The best way to bet on this game is to find a Dallas -8.5 and tease it down to -2.5, but for the standard point spread, pushing double digits might represent a slight over-inflation.
Philadelphia Eagles +3 vs. San Francisco 49ers The 49ers should win, but they also shouldn’t be a full 3-point favorite. The opening price of -1.5 was a fairer number. San Francisco is notably better by any all-encompassing statistical rating, but Philadelphia has consistently found edges on the margins that are difficult to quantify — “the Brotherly Shove” serving as Exhibit A — under coach Nick Sirianni.
New England Patriots +6 vs. Los Angeles Chargers Both these teams currently look broken beyond the point where a bettor could ever feel confident backing them at anything other than an outrageous price. Taking a big number in another game with a low total — the over/under is as low as 40.5 — feels like the lesser of two evils.