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NFL MVP dark horses: History for Justin Jefferson? Plus, Sauce Gardner’s skill, Kadarius Toney’s rebirth

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Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks knows the ins and outs of the league, which he details in his notebook. Today’s edition covers:

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A missed edge deal that could pay huge dividends.

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But first, let’s take a look at three dynamic players who could become MVPs at the limit…

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Josh Allen was the clear favorite for the MVP earlier this month, but a sloppy play by the Bills quarterback opened the race again. Patrick Mahomes delivers his usual damage in Kansas City, Jalen Hurts enjoys an 8-1 breakout season with the Eagles, and Tua Tagovailoa has Dolphins fans showering him Chants “Best Player”.

As of press time, these quarterbacks are in Caesars Sportsbook’s top four league favorites: Mahomes (+120), Allen (+500), Tagovailoa (+500) and Hurts (+550). But what if more chaos lies ahead? Which candidate, currently overlooked, could break in and take home equipment with a reckless finish?

With eight more Sundays in the 2022 regular season, here are three MVP dark horses to keep an eye on.

NOTE: The MVP odds provided by Caesars Sportsbook are current as of 6:30 pm ET on Friday, November 18th.

Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson
Baltimore Ravens · QB

Current MVP odds: +1200

It’s hard to see the former MVP as a real dark horse candidate, but Jackson’s heroism has largely gone unnoticed this season. The Year 5 pro has 2,403 passing/rushing yards and 18 total touchdowns as a top double-threat quarterback in a league that’s undergoing a positional revolution. Jackson’s speed, quickness and explosiveness torment defenders who can’t match his athleticism in space.

Baltimore is maximizing Lamar’s talents using an option-based formation that allows him to run between tackles or around the edges in various designed quarterback runs and option plays that keep defensemen in conflict. With the Ravens also adding a set of extra play passes, Jackson’s defense becomes an absolute nightmare.

Now the numbers are down since Jackson’s brilliant start:

  • Weeks 1-3: 330.7 passes/rush per game, 12 passes/rush TD, 119.0 passer rating.
  • Weeks 4-9: 235.2 passes/rush per game, 6 passes/rush TD, passer rating 80.5.

But Jackson could end the season with a bang, especially given the Ravens’ remaining schedule:

  • vs. Carolina Panthers (3-7)
  • at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7)
  • vs. Denver Broncos (3-6)
  • to Pittsburgh Steelers (3–6)
  • to Cleveland Browns (3-6)
  • vs. Atlanta Falcons (4-6)
  • vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (3–6)
  • to Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)

Yes, one opponent who currently has a winning record (5-4 Cinsi in the regular season finale). Think Lamar could come up with some numbers on that cake walk?

Baltimore is in first place in the AFC North with a score of 6-3. If the Ravens earn a high AFC playoff seed with an impressive track record, Jackson’s productivity and impact as a dual-threat playmaker could earn him a second MVP award.

Justin Jefferson
Justin Jefferson
Minnesota Vikings · WR

Current MVP odds: +8000

The impressive pass catcher is on track for his first 2,000-yard receiving season. He is currently second in the NFL with 1,060 receiving yards, but he played one less game than league leader Tyreke Hill (1,148). Jefferson’s current pace would give him 2,002 yards, breaking Calvin Johnson’s single-season record of 1,964 yards. The Vikings star has played six games for 100 yards and has the most yards against players (424) according to Next Gen Stats.

It’s no coincidence that the Vikings are 8-1 tied for the best record in the NFL with the Eagles. Minnesota enters the weekend comfortably seated on the NFC’s northern throne with a whopping five-game lead in a losing streak.

Given Jefferson’s consistent dominance during his first three seasons (LOOK: 4,076 receiving yards in 42 games), the Vikings star should already be in the spotlight as the league’s top player. Yes, I fully understand that a wide receiver has never won an MVP. But Jefferson became WR1 in the league of lucky passes – and he collected enough a vibrant cutscene along the way, full of amazing grabs and electric runs. Of course, nothing stands out more than the stunning, contested one-handed tackle he just recorded in Minnesota’s exhilarating win over Buffalo last week. It was the game play of the year. Such a moment remains eachincluding MVP voters.

Flashy plays, the number of video games and the success of the team all make Jefferson one of the defining players in the 2022 season. Sounds like an MVP nomination to me.

Saquon Barkley
Saquon Barkley
New York Giants · RB

Current MVP odds: +20000

Running back is no longer as popular as it used to be in today’s NFL, but Barkley is resurrecting interest in the position. The 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year not only led the Giants 7-2 into serious trouble as a one-man show on offense, but also reminded the football world of his greatness as a multifaceted playmaker after three injuries. permeated seasons.

During Week 10, Barkley led the NFL in touchdowns (227) and yards (931) and was second in scrimmage yards (1,128). The five-year-old pro is close to what Hall of Famer Barry Sanders claimed in the first nine games of his 1997 MVP campaign: 1,193 scrimmage yards (998 rushes and 195 receptions).

As the centerpiece of the Giants offense that pummels opponents with relentless body shots during a running game, Barkley has displayed a combination of explosive power, resilience and tenacity that lives up to the brand established by Brian Daball and his coaching staff. What’s more, Barkley’s consistency as a runner (four games for 100 yards), despite being the only talented offensive player, is a testament to his superiority as a dynamic playmaker.

Sauce is the NFL’s new cut-off angle?

When the New York Jets selected Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner with the fourth overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, they were hoping the University of Cincinnati standout would blossom in the Darrell Revis-like cover corner of the perimeter. So far, so good.

Nine games into his NFL career, the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder was as good as advertised. In fact, he was even better – especially when it comes to blocking a position. Gardner leads the league with 13 assists defended. And in player coverage, Gardner ranks first in the fewest yards allowed (26), TD passes allowed (0), yards allowed per receiving (4.3), yards allowed per target (1.6), and yards allowed per target (1.6) and yards allowed per snap (0.24). to PFF, among 107 players with at least 10 cover targets.

In Robert Saleh’s “Cover 3” hybrid formation, Gardner is perfect for corner play as a long, sweeping defender with outstanding instincts, awareness, and ball skills. The rookie not only shows discipline and patience with shadow receivers on the line of scrimmage, but also demonstrates diagnostic skills to read routes on the fly. Because Jets defensemen were instructed to play with top-down leverage, in which defensemen kept receivers in front of them on all routes, Gardner was effective in tackling deep balls while playing bottom shots.

After taking several weeks to fully understand the nuances of the scheme, the 22-year-old thrived like a locked corner on the island. In fact, since Week 4, Gardner has allowed a total of three receptions for 2 yards on 81 man-covering targets on the PFF.

My NFL Media Colleague Brian Boldinger broken Gardner star game throughout the season, highlighting some of his talents as an all-round defender with A+ skills. While the freshman was extraordinary in covering people, he also showed outstanding awareness as an area quarterback. Gardner plays with excellent use of the press bail technique and the ability to jam and sink in two deep zones.


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