In last week’s win over the Arizona Cardinals, Jackson produced the most rushing yards (120) ever for a player who also threw for 250 or more yards in the same regular season game. He joined Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Marcus Mariota and Colin Kaepernick as the only quarterbacks to produce at least 250 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in a regular season game.
“It’s just going to be a real conundrum for them,” Ravens Coach John Harbaugh said of opposing defenses. “They’re going to have to figure it out for themselves."
Jackson’s performance also will be a conundrum for sports bettors, with his performance thus far putting him in the MVP conversation, at least according to the odds. Backers of his MVP campaign, though, should be wary: Even after his strong start, there are reasons to be skeptical of Jackson’s chances to win the award.
Jackson’s odds to be the MVP have improved from 100-1 entering the season to 40-1 after Week 1 to 5-1 as of Wednesday, according to Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading at William Hill U.S. That makes him the second choice, behind reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes (3-1), and ahead of three-time MVP Tom Brady, the third choice at 8-1.
“Things move fast,” Bogdanovich told The Washington Post. “Usually you don’t see people come from the pack that fast. Granted, [Jackson] has faced two of the weaker teams, but he was phenomenal in college, and he has a chance to be really special at this level, too.”
In general, betting on a quarterback to win the MVP award is a decent gamble. The position has accounted for 11 of the past 12 MVP awards, and the eight rushers who have crashed the party over the past 30 years have been historically good or record-setting. MVP-winning quarterbacks also have a common thread: They typically are on teams that finish first in their division and, over the past 10 years, have been on teams that finish first or second in their conference.
“It’s a combination. You have to have a big year, and you have to have a winning team,” Bogdanovich said.
It’s that latter factor — and Baltimore’s standing among AFC competitors — that could derail Jackson’s MVP bid, especially because the quarterbacks on the teams favored to win the AFC are having solid seasons, too. Based on each team’s true talent level — derived by looking at actual win rate, projected win rate based on points scored and allowed, and a regressed win rate that accounts for the small sample size of two games — Brady’s New England Patriots are favored to win the AFC (39 percent), followed by Mahomes’s Chiefs (24 percent) and Jackson’s Ravens (12 percent). That puts Brady and Mahomes in a much better position to win the MVP award.
Mahomes is the player to beat. The reigning MVP and offensive player of the year has completed 55 of 77 passes (71.4 percent) for 821 yards and seven touchdowns. He leads the league in yards and touchdown passes, and he has not thrown an interception.
“If Mahomes stays healthy, he will be [the favorite]," Bogdanovich said. “He was in uncharted waters last year, and he’s off to a good start again this year. And his team is 2-0.”
Jackson’s odds could improve again if his Ravens upset Mahomes’s Chiefs. The Chiefs are 5½-point favorites, but it appears winning is the only thing on Jackson’s mind.
“I hate losing,” he told ESPN. “You can have all the stats in the world, but if you’re losing, you’re probably not going to get talked about. Probably will but not in a good way. It’s all about winning. That’s what it’s all about.”