NFL fans have seen both perennial stars and unheralded outsiders shine on football’s biggest stage over the years, and that’s part of what makes the Super Bowl so great.
Last year, we watched Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller win the Super Bowl 50 MVP award, and he became only the second defensive player to do so in the past decade. With two of the best offenses in football set to square off on Sunday, this year’s winner will most likely be an offensive player.
Here are the eight most likely candidates to be named MVP of Super Bowl 51, with their current listed odds of accomplishing the feat (via 5Dimes Sportsbook).
8. Chris Hogan
The ex-Buffalo Bills wide receiver is tearing it up in his first postseason. Following a monster nine-catch performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC championship game, Hogan has 13 catches for 275 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games for the Patriots, and he leads all wide receivers in catches of 20 or more yards during the postseason with eight.
Hogan has gotten fewer targets than his teammate, Julian Edelman, but he has been able to do more with less, averaging 21.2 yards per catch.
Current listed odds: 37.5-to-one
7. Dion Lewis
After missing most of the regular season while recovering from knee surgery, Lewis has come on strong during the postseason, especially in the divisional round, where he scored three touchdowns to help the Patriots rout the Houston Texans.
Lewis became the first player in the Super Bowl era to score on a rush, a catch and a kick return in a postseason game. The jack-of-all-trades running back is a game-changer for the Patriots despite playing second fiddle to LeGarrette Blount in the backfield.
Current listed odds: 30-to-one
6. Devonta Freeman
Despite sharing time at running back with Tevin Coleman, Freeman is one of the Falcons’ most gifted offensive players with his ability to catch passes out of the backfield and pick up big yardage. In fact, he leads all running backs in postseason receiving yards with 122.
Freeman is also a beast on the ground, having averaged 4.8 yards per carry during the regular season. If the Patriots find a way to bottle up Julio Jones, then it might be up to Freeman to get the Falcons’ offense going.
Current listed odds: 30-to-one
5. LeGarrette Blount
Blount has the difficult task of finding running room against a Falcons defense that hasn’t allowed more than 34 yards on the ground to any non-quarterback this postseason. In Blount’s defense, the Falcons haven’t faced a running back of his caliber since the regular season ended. The Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, who the Falcons beat to get to the Super Bowl, ranked near the bottom in rushing during the regular season.
Meanwhile, Blount finished with the eighth-most rushing yards in the league (1,161), and he’s one of the most difficult running backs to bring down because of his 250-pound frame.
Current listed odds: 23.5-to-one
4. Julian Edelman
Believe it or not, Edelman has more catches (16) and receiving yards (255) than the Falcons’ best receiver this postseason after a pair of stellar performances against the Steelers and Texans. The favorite target of Tom Brady is having one of the best seasons of his career, and it would come as no surprise if he were to have another big game on the biggest stage of them all.
The Falcons had one of the worst passing defenses during the regular season, and with Brady throwing him the ball, Edelman could feast on Sunday.
Current listed odds: 20.5-to-one
3. Julio Jones
Quite possibly the best non-quarterback on the field come Sunday, Jones needs to have a big game if the Falcons are going to pull this one out. A sprained toe has limited the Falcons wide receiver in practice, but he gutted it out in the team’s last game, putting up nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns in a blowout win over the Packers.
Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler could possibly cover Jones at some point during the game, and he once tweeted he wanted to “check” Jones when he was playing college ball at the University of West Alabama back in 2012. This is Jones’ opportunity to show Butler and the rest of the world he can’t be checked.
Current listed odds: 17.5-to-one
2. Matt Ryan
A fitting end to this season would be for Ryan, an MVP candidate, to take home both awards: the MVP and the Super Bowl MVP, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The Falcons quarterback has been nothing short of incredible, throwing for 730 yards and seven touchdowns with no interceptions this postseason. In both games against the Packers and Seahawks, he threw for more than 300 yards and completed better than 70 percent of his passes.
The Falcons enter the game on a six-game winning streak, and Ryan has tossed 18 touchdowns and no interceptions during that span. The veteran is playing the best football of his career, and is making smart decisions with the football. If the most likely way to beat the Patriots is by outgaining them in yards, then the weight will be on Ryan’s shoulders to lead the Falcons to victory.
Current listed odds: two-to-one
1. Tom Brady
Was there any ever doubt that Brady, a three-time Super Bowl MVP, would be the favorite to win the award a fourth time? The Patriots quarterback will be making a record seventh Super Bowl appearance on Sunday. He’s coming off another masterful performance in the postseason, throwing for 384 yards and three touchdowns in the win against Pittsburgh.
Patriots fans would like nothing more than for Brady, who was suspended for the first four games of the regular season for his involvement in Deflategate, to stick it to the NFL commissioner by leading the team to a win in the Super Bowl. And another Super Bowl MVP award would add to an already impressive postseason resume for the 39-year-old.
Current listed odds: one-to-one (even money)