Asked to cast a far-too-early vote for this year’s NFL MVP Award, Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr played it safe and selected Dalvin Cook, his teammate and the NFL’s No. 2 accumulator of yards from scrimmage.
“I’m a little biased, obviously,” Barr said. “But I don’t think it’s too far-fetched.”
A move across the Vikings locker room Tuesday found defensive end Danielle Hunter playing it even safer.
“I got to go with my two guys,” he said.
“No. 8 [Kirk Cousins] and No. 33 [Cook],” he said.
In that order?
“Both,” he said.
The question was then pitched to cornerback Xavier Rhodes. And, well, let’s just say Dalvin and Kirk finished among Xavier’s many also-rans.
“C’mon, man,” said Rhodes, shaking his head.
But it could be several guys this year, right Xav?
“I don’t know about that, man,” Rhodes said.
This conversation took place about 14 hours after Lamar Jackson, Baltimore’s 22-year-old quarterback/running back/Michael Vick-only-better, threw five touchdown passes while posting a 139.4 passer rating and 86 yards rushing on eight carries in a 45-6 beatdown of the host Rams.
“That guy last night,” said Rhodes, “Whew. Man. Five touchdowns. Four in one half? C’mon, now.”
Rhodes wasn’t done.
“You see how he fumbled that ball and picked it up and ran [35 yards to the 1-yard line]?” he asked.
“OK then,” he said. “You see what I see then.”
The NFL MVP race hasn’t exactly been closed for debate as we head into December. But Jackson is pulling away with favorable odds that haven’t been seen up to this point in 2019.
According to FanDuel, Jackson now sits at +130. That means a $100 bet on him would pay $130 if he wins MVP.
The next closest player is Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson at +160. Wilson gets the next week’s Monday Night Football stage at home when he faces a Vikings team that he’s never lost to in five tries, including one playoff game.
No Vikings player cast an MVP vote for Wilson during Tuesday’s unofficial locker room poll. But many of them sure sounded like they were talking about an MVP-caliber player.
“If we don’t sack him, there’s a good chance he’s going to give the receivers like 13 seconds to get open,” Rhodes said. “He might run 30 yards downfield backward and find someone open. You never know with him. He’s going to eventually do something to get his team into the best situation and get the win.”
Wilson and Jackson both play for 9-2 teams. They’re passing numbers are similar, with both having 24 touchdowns and Wilson having two fewer interceptions (5-3).
But as elusive as Wilson is, Jackson is running like no other quarterback has in NFL history, including Vick. He ranks ninth in rushing yards (876), first in yards per carry (7.1) and has six touchdowns.
In giving the Patriots their only loss of the season, Jackson completed 74% of his passes with one touchdown and no turnovers while also rushing for 61 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Take that, Billy Boy.
“I’ve seen highlights,” Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks said. “And it’s been crazy.”
In pulling ahead of Wilson in the MVP odds race the past two weeks, Jackson has thrown nine touchdown passes, rushed for 181 yards, outscored the Texans and Rams 86-13 and put himself on pace for 44 total touchdowns and over 4,800 yards.
Wilson, meanwhile, just became the first quarterback in NFL history to open a career with eight consecutive winning seasons. This season, Seattle is 8-1 in one-possession games as Wilson has posted a 19-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in the red zone.
“We have our work cut out for us,” Barr said.
Jackson has been even better in the red zone. He has thrown 17 touchdown passes with no interceptions while rushing 22 times for 76 yards, four touchdowns and no fumbles.
Rounding out the top 10 in FanDuel’s MVP odds this week are Deshaun Watson (+1300); Aaron Rodgers and Dak Prescott (+1600); Patrick Mahomes (+1700); Christian McCaffrey and Cook (+4400); and Jimmy Garoppolo and Cousins (+5000).
Vikings safety Jayron Kearse has news for everyone not named Lamar. He delivered it via Twitter while watching Jackson become the first player to throw five touchdown passes in his Monday Night Football debut. It went like this:
“If you had any aspirations of winning the MVP this year lose them because boy oh boy.”
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org