Aaron Rodgers has had a firm grip on the NFL MVP the past two seasons, but that is bound to change in 2022. Although the Packers did see Brett Favre win a third straight MVP at 25 years ago, there’s too much competition to think Rodgers can be the first quarterback since to do that.
Rodgers is still among the MVP favorites for the upcoming season, but 2018 winner Patrick Mahomes and two more young guns are right up looking for their first one: Josh Allen and Justin Herbert.
Allen is still at the top of the futures list on most sportsbooks, but Herbert, as a trendy alternative, has the best odds in some. According to FanDuel, Allen (+700) is followed by Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady (both +800), with Herbert and Rodgers (both +1000) rounding out the top five.
Other than providing a higher return on investment than Allen or Mahomes, Herbert has a ton of appeal before considering the sleepers and long shots. Here’s a breakdown on why he’s a better MVP bet than both:
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Justin Herbert has two big numbers that will remain in his favor
Herbert finished second to only Tom Brady in 2021 with his 5,014 passing yards. He was third in TD passes with 38, behind Brady and Matthew Stafford.
That puts him in position for leading the league in two major passing categories in 2022 as he has room to push into the 40-TD club while Brady and Stafford have the typical scoring pass regression.
Herbert also threw for 7.5 yards per attempt last season, one spot behind Rogers, ahead of Mahomes (7.4) and well ahead of Allen (6.8).
Herbert was the fourth-graded QB by Pro Football Focus behind Joe Burrow, Brady and Allen, one spot ahead of Rodgers. According to ESPN QBR, Herbert was at 65.6, behind only Rodgers and Brady.
However you measure Herbert from 2021, he belonged with the league’s elite passers in many ways.
Justin Herbert has two big numbers that he can push into his favor
A big reason why Rodgers won again and Brady finished second was the fact neither threw double-digit interceptions. Rodgers had 37 TDs with only 4 INTs, while Brady had 43 TDs with only 6 INTs. Rodgers was a no-brainer runaway winner in 2020 when that ratio was a ridiculous 48 to 5.
Chargers center Corey Linsley, a former Packer, recently compared Herbert to Rodgers in terms of his preparation and pursuit of perfection in an interview with Sirius XM Radio. That must manifest in turning picks into more peccadillos than pests.
Herbert, with 15 interceptions, was tied for a third-most in the NFL with Allen, who threw for 36 TDs. Mahomes had 13 with his 37 TDs. Having a few less turnovers will come from avoiding multiple-INT breakdown games, of which Herbert had four last season.
The other key number tied to the ratio is passer rating. Rodgers led the league in that category in winning back-to-back MVPs. In 2019, Lamar Jackson won MVP at 113.3 and in 2018, Mahomes won MVP rating 113.8. Going back to 2017, Brady won the MVP at a more modest 102.8.
Herbert so far finished at 98.3 as a rookie and 97.7 in Year 2. He finished right behind Mahomes at No.11 last season, but consider Allen was 16th. Reducing his INTs to right around 10 and increasing his completion percentage to 68 is possible in Lombardi’s system. That would give him an MVP-worthy passer rating, before factoring in an expected TD pass bump.
Allen is a more willing and prolific runner, but even though there have been rushing-based anomalies such as Jackson and Cam Newton, MVP is still a passer-first award on top of being an almost QB-exclusive award.
Justin Herbert also has the benefit of key continuity
Mahomes will be affected to some degree by losing his big-play go-to wide receiver, Tyreek Hill and quarterbacks coach, Mike Kafka. Allen will be affected by losing play-caller Brian Daboll and some concerns on the Bills’ offensive line.
Herbert will have all his key weapons back around him. He will be into the second season with Joe Lombardi as his offensive coordinator and has now been working behind an elite offensive line anchored by left tackle Rashawn Slater. The supporting cast tied to his individual success has gotten better everywhere.
As much as MVP is an individual award, team support is a factor. Rodgers, Jackson and Mahomes had plenty of ideal personnel and schematic help in taking the past four awards. That same vibe exists for Herbert going into 2022, leaving only one more element in completing his MVP-to-be formula.
Justin Herbert needs to help his team to live up to high expectations
Herbert’s Chargers were 9-8 and failed to make the playoffs after losing a tough game to the AFC West rival Raiders in Week 18. That result was the exclamation point on Herbert on not being in the MVP conversation last season.
The Chargers have the sixth-best Super Bowl 57 odds in the NFL. They are third among AFC teams behind – you guessed it – Allen’s Bills and Mahomes’ Chiefs.
Rodgers was on a 13-win team the past two seasons. Jackson’s Ravens (14-2) and Mahomes’ Chiefs (12-4) also had gaudy records. The last time an NFL MVP finished on a team with fewer than 11 wins was 10 years ago, when Vikings running back Adrian Peterson disrupted the QB flow with an undeniable 2,097-yard rushing season.
The Chargers have a projected win total of 10.5, just like the Chiefs. one game off the Bills’ high bar. Given how tough the AFC West is with Russell Wilson’s Broncos and Derek Carr’s Raiders, too, the Chargers winning the division at even at only 11-6 would be massive toward Herbert’s campaign.
Winning the West would also come with getting the MVP edge over Mahomes. Then it comes down to Herbert to stay more prolific and efficient than Allen, with the rushing production staying reasonable in relation to Allen.
With another Rodgers repeat having not much appeal with the odds, it makes sense that everyone’s trying to find the best value QBs. But Joe Burrow and Dak Prescott (both at +1200) are not sneaky enough and Trey Lance (+4000) is a popular but shaky longshot.
Herbert is in the sweet spot with talent, numbers, near-future potential and odds to think he’ll take the ultimate next step in the Rodgers comparison by succeeding him as MVP.