Every week I receive unsolicited emails from people reaching out to sports media (which I am of course, since one time T.J. Simers completely dismissed me as a person when I was talking to Pete Carroll) to promote their website or business proposal and sometimes even events like the one where I met Pete Carroll. Being a lonely guy, I don't mind them at all. Heck, I'll give them my phone number too if they just wanna text me sometimes, or whatever.
A regular email I get is one from Bovada sports book, giving me the odds on everything from "Who will win the Super Bowl?" to "How many interceptions will Ryan Fitzpatrick throw against the Chiefs?" I normally glance over these e-mails and don't think twice about it, but today you win, Bovada! How does it feel?
No, seriously, how does it feel to win? I'm -$17,678.23 in my gambling career.
The biggest regret in my gambling life is probably something I don't want to get into, but my biggest regret in my sports betting life is definitely the time I was driving from Phoenix, Arizona to Pullman, Washington in the summer of 2005 and stopping off in Las Vegas for the night. (I didn't sleep mind you, I literally stayed up all night playing poker and then continued the 30-hour drive with a 16-hour pit stop in Las Vegas.) Before I left Vegas I noticed that Seattle was 50-to-1 to win the Super Bowl that year and 25-to-1 to win the NFC. I was not sure that the Seahawks would win the Super Bowl but I was confident that they were the best team in the conference.
I briefly considered laying down $100 for Seattle to win the NFC but as a broke college student entering his final year of school, I opted it wasn't the best financial plan. Far be it from me to be able to watch the Seahawks beat the Carolina Panthers in the conference title game without metaphorically seeing $2500 fly away into the sky on the wings of a glorious hawk.
Well, if you want to lay $100 on Seattle to win the Super Bowl right now at 9-to-2 odds, you'll win $450. (I think.) If you want to lay $100 on the Jaguars, they will literally turn you away as Vegas has decided that it's not worth the hassle of paying out a miracle after Jacksonville was 5000-to-1 last week and is only getting worse.
The Seahawks are 9/2 to win the Super Bowl, 2/1 to win the NFC, and 1/4 to win the NFC West.
And yet here are the odds for who will win the MVP:
NFL MVP - Odds to Win
Peyton Manning (DEN) QB 1/3
Drew Brees (NO) QB 7/2
Aaron Rodgers (GB) QB 10/1
Tom Brady (NE) QB 16/1
Alex Smith (KC) QB 25/1
Adrian Peterson (MIN) RB 25/1
Reggie Bush (DET) RB 25/1
Philip Rivers (SD) QB 33/1
LeSean McCoy (PHI) RB 50/1
Jimmy Graham (NO) TE 50/1
Despite the Vegas assement that the Seahawks are the second-best team in the NFL and the best in the NFC, you will see no Russell Wilson and no Marshawn Lynch. There are two things we know about the NFL MVP (speaking Associated Press here), pretty much for certain:
- He will play for a playoff team (the closest I can find to a player that didn't make the playoffs in the modern era is Barry Sanders in 1997, when the Lions went 9-7 and barely made it with Sanders rushing for over 2,000 yards)
- He will put up big stats.
And if there was a third thing:
- He will be a QB or RB. The last non-QB/RB to win the award was Lawrence Taylor in 1986.
Manning is so far ahead in all three phases of being an MVP right now that the rest of this is almost a moot point, but it is still interesting to see that Wilson didn't even crack the top 10. As of now, Wilson is the starting QB for the team that Vegas has deemed probably the second-best in the NFL and he's very far from being a Trent Dilfer or Brad Johnson-type QB.
He's on pace to throw for 3,177 yards, 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and rush for 524 yards. But more than anything it would seem like the perception would be that Wilson is "doing it all on his own" since he doesn't have high-profile wide receivers or tight ends, and although we know that Lynch is amazing, the stats this year aren't popping like they have the last couple.
I also find the rest of the list interesting:
- Brees makes at least as much sense Manning does.
- Rodgers is a perennial candidate and they still favor the Packers to win the NFC North.
- Brady seems to be getting by on a 4-0 record and name recognition, since his statistics thus far fall well short of basically every other season in his career.
- Alex Smith? Wait... he would appear to be no different than the Wilson choice, right?
- Reigning MVP Adrian Peterson and the 1-3 Vikings, and Vegas does not expect them to rebound.
- Bush, despite the fact that the Lions are projected to finish third and Bush has already missed a game.
- Rivers is having a phenomenal statistical season, but still a bit of a long-shot to make the playoffs.
- McCoy is great, the Eagles are terrible.
- A tight end has never won MVP. A tight end has never even won Super Bowl MVP.
So is Vegas just trollin'? No. Or, I don't know. Who cares? Even though I could probably make a case for Wilson to have the third-best odds in the NFL, that's not really why I am writing this. I find it interesting, and that's about it, because the truth is that winning the NFL MVP is inconsequential and pretty much not predictive at all of the one thing we do care about, and that's winning the title.
The regular season MVP hasn't won the Super Bowl since Kurt Warner in 1999.
And (please excuse the corniness) the Seahawks aren't a player, they're a team. Even though we could point to the vast differences in Seattle from pre-Wilson's second half of 2012 (the so-so performance in the Tarvaris Jackson 2011 season to a 4-4 start last year) to when his statistics and performance really started to go off of the charts as we've seen the Seahawks win their last nine regular season games, much of Wilson's own improvement is heavily tied to play-calling and improvement in the players around him. Sure, we could argue that the offensive line has been porous this season and the play of his receivers has been inconsistent, but close wins would not be wins at all if it weren't for the defense bestowed upon him.
(Which is exactly what we could also point out for Brady and Smith)
This isn't about "one guy" and we don't even want it to be about "one guy." If there was ever an award you did want to win for "one guy" however, it might be NFL Defensive Player of the Year anyway. And after Richard Sherman won NFC Defensive Player of the Month on Thursday, he might be a good candidate to win such an award.
Though no MVP has won a Super Bowl in this century, three Defensive Player of the Year winners have: Ray Lewis in 2000, Derrick Brooks in 2002, and James Harrison in 2008.
You could say that others have "dance around" the Super Bowl. Bob Sanders won the award in 2007, the year after the Colts won it all. (Of course, Sanders only played in two-and-a-half career games, due to injuries.) Michael Strahan won the year after the Giants lost the Super Bowl in 2000. Brian Urlacher won in 2005, the year before the Bears lost the Super Bowl. Charles Woodson won in 2009, the year before the Packers won the Super Bowl. And Terrell Suggs won for the Ravens in 2011.
Of course, you could tie the same sort of "dancing" to the NFL MVP honors, but really it is often bestowed upon a great statistical season by a great player, whereas the defensive honor is usually given to the best player on a great defense. Not always, of course. J.J. Watt only won last year because he might have had the best individual defensive performance of the last 25 years, whereas the Texans defense in total was not elite. But usually, as in the case of guys like Lewis, Brooks, and Harrison, it's a representation of a truly great unit.
The 2000 Ravens, 2002 Bucs, and 2008 Steelers have a number of Hall of Fame candidates. Almost all of them will hit "three levels" of amazing on the defense.
The Ravens had Sam Adams in the middle of the defensive line, plus Michael McCrary and Rob Burnett on the outside. Jamie Sharper and Peter Boulware assisted Lewis in the middle of the defense. Duane Starks, Rod Woodson, and Chris McCalister in the secondary. Individually none of these players, with the exception of Adams and Woodson, were truly as great without Lewis in the middle, but together they formed one of the best defenses of all-time.
The Bucs had Warren Sapp, Simeon Rice, John Lynch, and Ronde Barber, in addition to Brooks. Not much else really needs to be said about that, but Shelton Quarles was pretty good and Brian Kelly had eight interceptions that year.
The Steelers had LaMarr Woodley, Troy Polamalu, Casey Hampton, Ike Taylor, Lawrence Timmons, and Aaron Smith. Three levels.
For Seattle right now, Sherman might be the leading candidate to represent them as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, but it will only be because he's the most high-profile player on what might be the best defense by season's end. It will be because the Seahawks play three levels, and names like Brandon Mebane, Chris Clemons, Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, K.J. Wright, Brandon Browner, Cliff Avril, and Michael Bennett will be intrinsically tied to any individual awards won by anyone. Whether that's Sherman for NFL DPOY or Wilson's MVP candidacy.
Because this whole operation really is nothing less than a team effort.
I wouldn't say that the Thailand podcast turned out exactly as I would have liked it to, but mostly I was doing it as a learning experience and it was certainly one of those. Either way, I started so I have to finish and I'm presenting part III here. I guess you could say it's sorta personal, but I had to sort of deliver on what I had set out to deliver in the beginning. I don't encourage you to listen to it, but here it is anyway. Download Thailand Part III
I probably won't answer any questions about the podcast in the comment section, you'll have to direct those to twitter.