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NFL MVP 2020: Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes duel for the top spot in PFF's rankings

Dec 23, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) greets Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) following a 38-31 Seattle victory at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

We're now onto Week 9 of the 2020 NFL season, and it’s the first time that the MVP race feels like a true duel, as Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes have separated from the pack a little bit. But just how large is their lead, and can one of the other MVP candidates strike back in the coming weeks?

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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).

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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