The Cincinnati Bengals crushed the Baltimore Ravens last week to improve to 5-2, and take over first place in the AFC North. In a division that includes contenders such as the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, and even to a certain extent, the Pittsburgh Steelers, what the Bengals have done through seven weeks has been incredible.
Nobody gave Cincinnati a chance in 2021 because of uncertainty around the defense and a weak offensive line that got their rookie quarterback severely injured in 2020. However, Joe Burrow has returned from his knee injury and has put the rest of the AFC on notice.
Thanks to Cincinnati's Cinderella story, the now-beloved Bengals have become a true threat in the AFC, which makes Joe Burrow a real contender in the NFL MVP race.
Are Burrow and the Bengals a fun first half of the season story or should we take them seriously and take the second-year passer's juicy MVP odds at +4000?
Burrow completed 60% of his passes for a career-high 416 yards passing and three touchdowns in the win at Baltimore last week. With Burrow bouncing back nicely from the knee injury and the emergence of Rookie of the Year favorite Ja'Marr Chase, the former No. 1 pick has some significant value at +4000 on FanDuel Sportsbook.
He's not a flashy dual-threat quarterback who wows you with his legs or his arm like Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray or Josh Allen, but he's shining in the Bengals wide-open passing attack using his next-level accuracy and anticipation to beat defenses.
It also helps he's getting a little help from his friend and former LSU teammate.
Burrow has improved in almost every statistical category. A lot of that can be credited to the Bengals drafting Chase. In the big win against the Ravens, Chase totaled 201 yards and a touchdown on eight catches and throughout the entire year, Burrow and Chase have been one of the best combinations in all of football.
Chase is averaging just over seven targets per game while leading the league with 21.5 yards per reception. Their chemistry together not only makes them a lethal duo, but it also opens up the rest of the offense and helps comfort the blow of having an average offensive line.
Burrow By The Numbers
Burrow is ranked in the top 10 in passing yards (1956), passing touchdowns (17), passer rating (108.9), passing yards per game (279.4), passing yards per attempt (9.2), and yards per completed pass (13.4).
If Burrow's averages hold up for an entire 17-game season, he would have 4749 yards passing with 41 touchdowns. For reference, Rodgers passed for 4299 yards and 48 touchdowns in his 2020 MVP season. I am not saying that Burrow is on that level yet, but he is absolutely torching teams right now, making Cincy a legit contender.
When you look at these types of bets, you are more or so betting on them to go over their current paces. Their schedule gets tougher at the end of the season, but Burrow will have a few games against suspect defenses. Teams like the Jets, Browns (twice), Chiefs, and Chargers will be favorable matchups for Burrow and the Bengals offense.
But Is He Worth A Future?
If you firmly believe that Burrow is only going to get better, you would be a fool to not jump on his MVP odds right now. He is not a better quarterback than Rodgers, Mahomes, Allen, or even Dak Prescott, but the MVP award is not always given to the best player.
A lot of these awards come down to team success. If we are to assume that Burrow keeps up with or even exceeds his current pace, then the Bengals will be one of the top teams in the AFC. The only way Burrow is not a top-three MVP candidate if the Bengals make the playoffs is an injury or poor play. However, the Bengals success relies on Burrow.
Depending on your view of the Bengals as a team, putting a unit on Burrow's MVP odds is worth the risk. Even if he does not win the MVP award or he regresses at the end of the season, Burrow has proven through seven games that he can play at an MVP level.
The +4000 odds are just too juicy to pass up right now.
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