NFL: Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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We're through the first 12 weeks of the 2021 NFL season, which means it's once again time four our weekly check-in on the MVP race. We'll use this space over the next several weeks to take the temperature of our rotating panel of experts, trying to get a feel for who is in the lead, who is in contention, who is hanging on the fringes, and how those groups are changing from week to week. 

Each of our experts was asked to submit their top five MVP rankings. Five points were awarded for a first-place vote, four for a second-place vote, three for a third-place vote, two for a fourth-place vote, and one for a fifth-place vote.

At the moment, we appear to have a two-man race between two extremely familiar candidates. In a somewhat surprising development, we also had a running back crack the top five of the voting. This has been an extremely quarterback-heavy award over the last few years, so that's certainly an interesting note. 

Without further ado, let's get to the voting...

The panel of voters: Will Brinson, Ryan Wilson, John Breech, Jared Dubin, Tyler Sullivan, Jeff Kerr, Cody Benjamin, Jordan Dajani, Bryan DeArdo, Josh Edwards

The full MVP leaderboard

1. Buccaneers QB Tom Brady (41)

2. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (36)

3. Cardinals QB Kyler Murray (22)

4. Colts RB Jonathan Taylor (14)

5. Bills QB Josh Allen (10)

6. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson (8)

7. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (7) 

8. Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (5)

9. Browns DE Myles Garrett (4) 

10. Patriots QB Mac Jones (2)

11. 49ers Total Freak Deebo Samuel (1)

Most first-place votes:

  • Tom Brady (6)
  • Aaron Rodgers (3)
  • Kyler Murray (1)

Most second-place votes:

  • Aaron Rodgers (3)
  • Kyler Murray (2)

Most total ballots: 

  • Tom Brady (10 out of 10)
  • Aaron Rodgers (9) 
  • Kyler Murray (7)
  • Jonathan Taylor (6)

Positional representation:

  • QB (8)
  • RB (1)
  • WR (1)
  • DE (1)

So who will actually win?

Brady is both the current leader in our poll and the odds-on favorite to win the award. At Caesars Sportsbook, Brady is +275, while Rodgers and Allen are behind him at +550, followed by Mahomes at +800, Prescott and Murray at +1200, and Jackson at +1400. Taylor is sitting at +2000 -- the same odds as Matthew Stafford, who dropped out of our poll this week amid the Rams' three-game losing streak. 

Of course, a whole lot can change over the next few weeks. There are still six weeks left in the regular season, and a lot of these players' teams play against each other during that time. The race at the top of the NFC seems likely to play a sizable role in the result of the MVP race. Brady, Rodgers, Murray, and Prescott all are quarterbacking teams that are in contention for the No. 1 seed in the conference; whichever of them gets it might have a leg up on the others. 

If the Chiefs continue the roll they seemed to be on heading into their bye, Mahomes might have a shot to leap up the leaderboard, but it's notable that their winning streak was largely fueled by the defense, and there was only one really good offensive performance thrown in. The Bills appeared to get back on track on Thanksgiving, and if they can beat the Patriots twice in the next three weeks and really take control of the division while Allen performs well against Bill Belichick's defense, his chances of winning would likely considerably rise as well. 

If Jackson cuts down on the turnovers and leads the Ravens to the No. 1 seed in the AFC, he would have a real shot at winning. I know Taylor is high up in this poll, but I find it extremely hard to believe a running back will actually win the award in the end.