If you’re planning to bet on any NFL games this weekend, USA TODAY Sports’ Lorenzo Reyes says these three are the way to go.

Patriots QB Tom Brady (12) and Seattle’s Russell Wilson have found themselves in high-stakes competition before …(Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Sports)

From Week 1 through Week 17, USA TODAY Sports’ NFL staff will be handicapping the race for league MVP. A first-place vote is worth five points, a second-place vote is worth three, and a third-place vote is worth one.

Our MVP tracker after Week 8’s games:

1. QB Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (23 points): At the season’s midpoint, he’s the face of the team with a league-best 7-1 record, and his 19 TD pbades make him the NFL co-leader with rookie Deshaun Watson. Wentz has also drastically cut down on mistakes and improved on third-down efficiency since he was a rookie in 2016. And he’s done a great job using his mobility on pbading plays and as an open-field threat himself with 203 rushing yards. Wentz’s development will get a serious test Sunday when he faces the Denver Broncos’ No Fly Zone defense. Last week: 1

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2. QB Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs (18 points): His gaudy TD-to-INT ratio (16-0) primarily explains his league-best 115.4 pbader rating. It’s also indicative of Smith’s newfound willingness to take chances, though he continues to display the best characteristics of the “game manager” label long affixed to him. His MVP momentum has slowed in recent weeks, along with the Chiefs’ hot start, and his 14-for-31 night against Denver brought his completion rate to a merely excellent level (69.1%) but only good for third place among his peers. Last week: 2

3. QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots (12½ points): He continues to be the league’s top gun. Brady’s 206 completions, 309 attempts and 2,541 yards all top the NFL leaderboard. But he is checking down to his backs with more frequency as his receiving corps continues to be decimated. A two-time MVP already, if Brady maintains his pace, he’ll join Drew Brees as the only players with multiple 5,000-yard seasons. However with Jimmy Garoppolo gone, it’s worth wondering if the Pats might want to temper TB12’s load a bit to preserve him as effectively as possible. Last week: 3

4. QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (8½ points): His 452-yard, four-TD performance Sunday vaulted him onto the MVP short list. But Wilson’s been playing quite well of late, with 1,652 yards and 14 TDs (108.7 QB rating) over the past five games, four of them Seattle wins. His efforts have been especially noteworthy given the Seahawks’ continued struggles to block or run the ball. Last week: Unranked 

Also receiving votes: Todd Gurley (1 point)

— Week 7 MVP rankings (Carson Wentz)
— Week 6 MVP rankings (Alex Smith)
— Week 5 MVP rankings (Alex Smith)
— Week 4 MVP rankings (Alex Smith)
— Week 3 MVP rankings (Alex Smith)
— Week 2 MVP rankings (Alex Smith)
— Week 1 MVP rankings (Alex Smith)


Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

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