You will never guess which QB attracted the most MVP bets before the season

If you were to walk into any sportsbook operated by Caesars Entertainment this weekend and wanted to place an NFL MVP bet on either Mitchell Trubisky or Baker Mayfield, you’d walk away disappointed.

You’d probably also be committed, which shows just how quickly shrewd genius can turn into delusional waste.

After all, it was just a few months ago that the quarterbacks for the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns were the darlings of the NFL MVP futures market. Trubisky led all players in NFL MVP tickets written at Caesars sports books, followed by Mayfield. The duo’s popularity was similar at other shops up and down the Strip.

Now, just two months into the season, both men are no longer on Caesars boards as their teams have gone a combined 5-11 to disappear from any real contention.

Yet even with perennial favorites like Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers getting off to great starts and the emergence of young stars like Lamar Jackson and Christian McCaffrey as legit candidates, both Trubisky and Mayfield haven’t been knocked from their perch.

“Those guys are still our leaders in ticket count and we haven’t even offered a bet on them in weeks,” said Jeff Davis, director of trading for Caesars Entertainment.

That position speaks to just how much attention the pair received when MVP markets opened in the early summer.

The previous six awards have been handed out to six different quarterbacks, so it made sense that the public would try and identify the next one.

That both Trubisky and Mayfield play for large fanbases that were feeling unusually optimistic — yes, please note the past tense — didn’t hurt.

Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky walks to the locker room after being injured during the half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Mitchell Trubisky walks to the locker room after being injured against the Vikings in September. (AP)

Trubisky certainly had his share of detractors coming into the season, but any warnings were drowned out by a perfect storm of both fanbase size and perceived bet value.

Bettors could get Trubisky for MVP at Caesars at 75-1 when the market first opened on May 20 and 200-1 when Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook posted on June 25.

Considering the Bears were around 10-1 to win the Super Bowl, a Trubisky MVP bet held a much better payout if you believed a jump in his play was necessary to get the Bears to that championship level.

“We wrote five tickets on him right off the bat and the floodgates just opened,” said Jay Kornegay, Westgate’s vice president of race and sportsbook operations. “At 200-1 you can start accumulating liability fairly quickly.”

Westgate dropped the odds to 150-1 and then down to 100-1. Trubisky’s odds at Caesars moved all the way down to 22-1 by the start of the season.

Meanwhile, every Chicago fan who made a trip to Vegas over the summer seemingly bet with his or her heart.

“The Bears always have a high number of tickets written on them every year, no matter how good or bad they are,” said Jeff Stoneback, director of the MGM Resorts Race and Sports Books.

Said Davis at Caesars: “There is more public money in futures markets on Chicago teams than any other city and it’s by a long ways. We’re absolutely inundated with bets for the Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup and they’re a dog to even make the playoffs.”

So the money kept coming in on Trubisky, but you know what happened next? The Bears played the Packers on a Thursday night to open the NFL season. Trubisky looked terrible and the Bears’ offense didn’t manage to score a touchdown.

The Las Vegas SuperBook at Westgate hasn’t written a Trubisky-for-MVP ticket since that night, Kornegay said.

“Now our biggest liabilities are Jimmy Garoppolo and Michael Thomas,” Kornegay said.

As for Mayfield, the odds for the Browns quarterback opened at 25-1 at Westgate and 9-1 at Caesars.

At MGM, Stoneback was used to seeing the Browns attract a lot of Super Bowl futures bets. Just as people used to bet the Cubs every year regardless of outlook because they liked holding a World Series ticket, loyal Browns fans would bet their favorite team to win the Super Bowl.

But those hopes seemed a tad more realistic coming into 2019. With Mayfield posting a strong 2018 and the addition of Odell Beckham, the Browns were seen as real Super Bowl contenders.

“This year’s Super Bowl odds for the Browns weren’t nearly as high as the last few years, but the public was pounding them as low as about 10-1,” Stoneback said. “There are a lot of people out there who didn’t get much of a run for their money for backing the Browns."

There’s not a lot of precedence for popular MVP bets flaming out so spectacularly. NFL MVP bets have only been legal in Las Vegas since 2017, as the gaming board previously wouldn’t allow wagers on any awards that were voted upon.

But given that long odds and short memories conspired to break the hearts of loyal fans in the Midwest this year, it’s certain to happen again.

As for now, bettors can still place wagers on candidates with a realistic chance of winning. Kornegay noted that Wilson and Jackson are the current favorites at 3-1, followed by Rodgers and Deshaun Watson at 5-1, and Patrick Mahomes and McCaffrey at 10-1.

“And then right behind them is Mitchell Trubisky at 5,000 to 1,” Kornegay said. “He’s still up there if anyone wants him.”

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