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NFL MVP 2020: Patrick Mahomes regains the top spot, Ryan Tannehill overtakes Aaron Rodgers at No. 3

We're now just over a day away from the kickoff to Week 7 of the 2020 NFL season, which means we have already learned a lot about most NFL teams. While we will still update our beliefs, the data suggests that our certainty about said beliefs doesn’t get much stronger from now on.

We also learned a lot about the MVP candidates this week: It turns out that Josh Allen has not transformed into a superhuman robot custom-built to destroy defenses, Aaron Rodgers can be stopped and Ryan Tannehill’s 2019 might have been more than just a fluke.

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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 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).

After dominating the best offense of the season going into Week 6, it’s not surprising that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are considered the best pass defense in the league right now.

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).

Meanwhile, we officially lost another MVP candidate. Despite good performances in recent weeks, the Miami Dolphins announced that they would be replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick with rookie signal-caller Tua Tagovailoa. While it’s unlikely that Tua can lead the same efficient offense that Fitzpatrick has generated, it’s still the right move for the Dolphins — they need to take advantage of any sample they can get in order to evaluate the first-round signal-caller properly.

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