Tua for MVP? After another bonkers week, his odds are rising.

Weekend sports betting takeaways

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa isn't the No. 1 MVP contender, but he's entered the conversation. (Julio Cortez/AP)
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa isn't the No. 1 MVP contender, but he's entered the conversation. (Julio Cortez/AP)

The NFL’s Most Valuable Player award isn’t particularly difficult to handicap. You just need to identify the top-performing quarterbacks on good teams.

The last nine winners of the award have been quarterbacks, and since 2001, only three non-quarterbacks have won it. Heck, Cooper Kupp had a record-setting season in 2021 — he earned the receiving triple crown, becoming the first player since 2005 to lead the league in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns — and still finished third in the voting behind two quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. That makes wagering on the award fairly straightforward.

This season, the easy pick is Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills. The No. 7 pick in the 2018 draft has been at the top of the MVP odds since markets opened, and his price has only gone down from there, declining from +600 odds at opening — in which a $100 wager would win $600 — to around +400 or lower on Monday morning. But there are more lucrative, if riskier, choices below Allen. In fact, you only need to scan the team in front of the Bills in the AFC East standings to find one such option: Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

Tagovailoa — whose MVP odds were 60-1 just two weeks ago — set career highs with 469 passing yards and six touchdowns in a comeback win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. He’s the 11th player in the last decade to toss for more than 400 yards with five touchdowns in a game. More importantly, the comeback puts Miami at 2-0, a record matched in the AFC by only the Kansas City Chiefs, although the Bills could join them with a win on Monday night.

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Is Tagovailoa’s performance enough to unseat Allen as the favorite, or even put him in the top tier? Clearly not. But his odds — which ranged Monday morning from +1800 to +2500 at some online sportsbooks — are tantalizing, and not likely to last another strong performance, especially if it comes against Allen and the Bills or Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami’s next two opponents.

At the very least, Tagovailoa should be thought of in the same tier as Tom Brady, Burrow and Jalen Hurts, whose odds are each less than Tagovailoa’s, at least at some books. The Dolphins quarterback is ahead of every quarterback but Allen in ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating, a measure of how valuable each quarterback is in relation to the league at-large.

(By Tuesday morning, Tagovailoa’s odds on DraftKings had dropped from +2500 to +2000.)

The Bengals were a sure thing (until they weren’t)

The Cincinnati Bengals opened as a 1½ underdog to the Dallas Cowboys on the Week 2 look-ahead line, before an injury to Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott made the Bengals a seven-point favorite. As you would expect, bettors lined up to take advantage of this development and used the Bengals in a variety of wagers, such as parlays and teasers (in which the Bengals would merely need to win, or win by a smaller number of points, for the bet to pay off. According to Dave Mason of BetOnline, the Bengals-Cowboys meeting was the biggest teased game of the day. Action Network estimated 81 percent of the tickets on the game’s point spread were for Cincinnati, as were 95 percent of the tickets on the money line.

It didn’t go well for that majority. The Bengals fell in a 14-3 deficit by the end of the first quarter and were looking at a 17-3 scoreboard as they headed into the locker room at halftime. Cincinnati would outscore Dallas in the second half, 14-3 but the reigning AFC champions couldn’t stop backup quarterback Cooper Rush from orchestrating a game-winning drive. Cowboys kicker Brett Maher hit a 50-yard field goal to win it as time expired.

Don’t rip up those tickets

If anyone still needed to be sold on the NFL as an entertainment and gambling product, Sunday’s results did the job. For the first time in 30 years, according to NFL Research, three teams came back from fourth-quarter deficits of at least 13 points to win — and all three teams were sizable underdogs.

Cardinals 29, Raiders 23 (OT): Down 23-7 entering the fourth quarter, Arizona (a 5.5-point underdog) got two touchdowns and two two-point conversions to force overtime and then won it on a 59-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray somehow scrambled 85.69 yards to get into the end zone on the first of those conversions.

The Raiders’ win probability early in the fourth quarter? 97.8 percent, according to ESPN.

Dolphins 42, Ravens 38: Holding a 28-7 halftime lead and a 35-14 lead with less than 13 minutes remaining, Baltimore looked to be on its way to an easy win — and a cover as a 7.5-point favorite. But Tagovailoa threw four-fourth quarter touchdown passes, the last one to Jaylen Waddle with 14 seconds left to cap a ludicrous comeback.

With just less than eight minutes remaining, the Ravens had a 97.8 percent chance of victory (per ESPN). But on the very next play, Tagovailoa threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill.

Jets 31, Browns 30: Cleveland led by 13 points with only 1:55 left, but a missed Browns extra point, a quick New York touchdown drive, a successful onside kick and Joe Flacco’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Wilson with 22 seconds left gave the Jets (a 6.5-point underdog) an absurd victory.

Bad beats

The fourth-quarter and overtime theatrics in the Cardinals-Raiders game helped disguise a fairly awful beat for anyone holding an under-52 ticket on the game’s scoring total.

The teams had combined to score only 30 points midway through the fourth quarter, but the Cardinals woke up from their game-long slumber, driving 54 yards over nine plays to cut their deficit to 23-15 with 8 minutes 17 seconds left and then forcing the Raiders to punt. What followed was a long, cruel march to the end zone for under bettors, 18 plays over 73 yards that included three fourth-down conversions and two defensive-holding penalties by the Raiders. Murray’s three-yard touchdown scramble and the ensuing two-point conversion at the final gun knotted things up at 23.

The under still had a chance in overtime, as the Cardinals’ opening drive petered out in Las Vegas territory. All the Raiders (and under bettors) needed was a field goal. Instead, this happened:

Byron Murphy Jr.'s 59-yard fumble return for a touchdown in overtime gave the Cardinals a 29-23 win and under-52 gamblers the cruelest of pushes.


At least under bettors in the Cardinals-Raiders game got their money back. Anyone who had under 59.5 in Saturday’s Syracuse-Purdue game wasn’t so lucky.

Through three quarters, the Orange and Boilermakers had combined to score only 19 points, but the fourth quarter featured 349 combined yards, 15 first downs and, sadly for anyone who had the under, 42 points. Syracuse would win, 32-29, on Garrett Schrader’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Oronde Gadsden II with seven seconds left.

The Boilermakers kind of did this to themselves. After taking a 29-25 lead late in the fourth quarter, they somehow committed seven penalties over the final 51 seconds of the game.


Western Kentucky led Indiana, 24-19, entering the fourth quarter on Saturday, and the Hilltoppers had first and goal from the Hoosiers’ 3-yard-line on their first drive of the final stanza. But after a one-yard pass, an incompletion and a run for no gain, Western Kentucky decided to take the three points and a 27-19 lead. This would not be the last time kicking would come into play.

The teams exchanged field goals, and Western Kentucky was up 30-22 when Indiana took over with 3:46 remaining. Abetted by three Hilltoppers defensive penalties, Connor Bazelak eventually found Cam Camper for a four-yard touchdown pass, and the successful two-point conversion knotted the score at 30.

With only 47 seconds left, Western Kentucky quickly marched down the field to give kicker Brayden Narveson the chance to win it, but his 44-yard attempt went wide right. Then, in overtime, the Hoosiers did this:

Charles Campbell’s 51-yard field goal on Indiana’s ensuring overtime possession won it, breaking the hearts of anyone hoping for a Western Kentucky upset (the Hilltoppers still covered the 6.5-point spread, though). Per ESPN’s Bill Connelly, it was Saturday’s most unlikely result:

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