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NFL MVP 2020: Mahomes pulls further ahead, but where does Cardinals QB Kyler Murray stand in the 2020 MVP race?

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) runs between Buffalo Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (49) and defensive end AJ Epenesa (57) during the second quarter at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Nov. 15, 2020. Buffalo Bills Vs Arizona Cardinals

Week 10 of the 2020 NFL season is in the books, and the pressing question is whether Kyler Murray’s heroic “Hail Murray” to DeAndre Hopkins has catapulted him into MVP contention. Another item of interest might be how we were able to predict that Patrick Mahomes would eventually lead the MVP race in the betting markets.

This article will look at how last week’s play has shaken up the MVP conversation and answer these questions in more detail.

Before we get to the rankings, here is a short overview of the methodology:

  • We trained a model to predict the winner of the MVP award at the conclusion of the regular season. The model is based on three regular-season parameters:
    1. The number of wins (and how that ranks across the league)
    2. Rank in the division
    3. Expected points added per play (and how that ranks across the league)
  • Since the model works with regular-season stats in hindsight, we need to simulate the remaining games of the season in order to feed the model. We invoke our weekly win-total simulations as well as a Bayesian Updating method to simulate each quarterback's expected points added (EPA) per play in 2020.
  • During the season, we update our beliefs on all quarterbacks with Bayesian Updating, incorporating up-to-date EPA per play and making adjustments based on both the PFF passing grade and the quality of defense faced.
  • Using these updated beliefs, we can simulate the EPA per play for the remainder of the season for each quarterback.
  • The number of wins and whether a QB wins his division is obtained from our weekly win-total simulations.

Defense adjustments

As we do every week, we will go through the strength of defenses first, explaining how we adjust for each defense before identifying the quarterbacks who played the most difficult schedule (and received the highest positive adjustments).

The recorded strength of each defense leads to the following adjustments for quarterbacks (a positive adjustment means a difficult schedule so far; a negative adjustment means an easy schedule).

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