Pinpointing any big game MVP is a complete crapshoot. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways of handicapping the most likely candidates — or keeping Vegas from setting odds on favorites.
San Francisco and Baltimore will battle Sunday night in the 47th edition of the Super Bowl. As the world’s biggest sporting event each year, the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player is, in some sense, the most important athlete of each calendar year.
The quarterback position is an obvious place to start looking for MVPs. It is the most important player on any football field as 25 of the 46 Super Bowl MVPs, including the last three, have been quarterbacks. Seven MVPs were running backs, six were wide receivers, one (Desmond Howard) was technically a wide receiver but won it on special teams and seven times has a defensive player won the award.
Who are the odds-on favorites to be named the MVP of Super Bowl XLVII?
1. Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco
Vegas Odds: 7/4
The odds are heavily in favor of a signal caller winning the award and CK-7 is playing for the team that is favored to win the game. However, this is only Kaepernick’s ninth career NFL start and despite his other-worldy performance against Green Bay, one has to believe that the veteran Ravens defenders will have a sound game plan for the Niners QB. While quarterbacks are the heavy favorites to win the award, generally speaking, they are established stars (Manning, Brady, Rodgers, Elway, Warner). Doug Williams in Super Bowl XXII is the last time a non-established star QB won the MVP. That said, No. 7 has the athletic ability to do things on the football field that no one else in this game is capable of.
2. Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore
Vegas Odds: 5/2
Flacco is dramatically more established player than Kaepernick and it’s why he would be my top choice for MVP. This Ravens team has some special mojo working in the locker room, but Flacco has been nearly as inspirational in the playoffs thus far. He has thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions in three playoff wins and has averaged 284 yards passing per game. He also made the big plays needed to defeat the Broncos in Denver. Flacco is in the best situation to win the MVP heading into the game.
3. Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore
Vegas Odds: 6/1
Lewis is too high (or low) in the odds so it makes little sense to put anything down on the aging linebacker to win the MVP. He is a 6:1 favorite to win the MVP based on history — he won the MVP in Super Bowl XXXV — storylines and general appeal. Lewis has made plenty of tackles this postseason but hasn’t been the driving force on the field of years past. He is the most important Raven in the locker room, but he might be the third- or fourth-best Raven defender at this point of his career.
4. Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco
Vegas Odds: 17/2
This is as safe a bet as there is on Sunday due in large part to the San Francisco game plan. It is unlikely Kaepernick can carry his team to victory without the help of the 49ers' powerful running game and offensive line. Gore is the Niners' all-time leading rusher and all-time rushing touchdown leader and could get some sentimental votes should no one player stand out. If San-Fran is going to win the game, the ground game will have to be a focal point. And Frank Gore is the lead actor in that role.
5. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore
Vegas Odds: 12/1
Rice is younger, more talented, more explosive and is an overall better player than Gore. However, the emergence of Bernard Pierce has eaten into his workload and is likely why Gore is favored in the MVP race over the Ravens running back. That said, he could easily be the most important player on the field come Sunday night. He will get goal-line carries and his ability to catch passes and improvise gives him as good a chance as any to be the star of the show.
Long shots I’d take a chance on:
Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco
Vegas Odds: 22/1
A tight end has never won the award but there is no reason to think Davis won’t be a super star in this game. He is too big for corners to cover and too fast for safeties and his postseason resume proves that. He has shredded defenses in the playoffs to the tune of 442 yards and five touchdowns on 16 catches — for a sick 27.6 yards per catch — in four career playoff games. He is the single-most difficult matchup on either side of the ball.
Ed Reed, S, Baltimore
Vegas Odds: 33/1
Yes, Ray-Ray is the star of the show, but Reed might be the better player right now. He hasn’t won a Super Bowl and could retire after the game himself. He is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and can change the game instantly with one big play. If I am betting on a defensive player from the Ravens, my money is on No. 20.
Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco
Vegas Odds: 66/1
Lewis might be the third- or fourth-best linebacker in the game, depending on what position Aldon Smith is listed, and few would disagree that Willis is tops. The former Ole Miss Rebels tackler should be the best defensive player on the field Sunday night, and at 66:1, what’s the harm in dropping a little coin on the superstar defensive leader of the 49ers?