Football Team

Can Rodgers challenge Brady for MVP? 2021 NFL award race update

Football Team

Throughout the 2021 NFL season, NBC Sports Washington's Ethan Cadeaux will follow all of the NFL's award races as part of the Leader in the Clubhouse series. Here, he looks where each award race stands after Week 13.

With just five weeks remaining in the regular season, the playoff hunt is in full force. Several teams, both currently on the inside and outside of the playoff picture, believe they have a postseason shot -- exactly what the NFL wants during the final month.

When it comes to the NFL's annual awards, few players are separating themselves from the pack. With just five games of the season remaining for each team, several of the league's annual individual honors are still up for grabs.

So, where does each award race stand after Week 13?

Here are the betting favorites, the best bets and in-depth analysis for every award race (all odds are provided by NBC Sports partner, PointsBet USA). Without further ado...

Most Valuable Player

Betting favorite: Tom Brady (+150)

Best bet: Tom Brady (+150)

Keep an eye on: Aaron Rodgers (+600)

If the 2021 season were to end right now, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady would be walking away with the fourth Most Valuable Player award of his career. With just five games to play, the 44-year-old has created a decent gap between him and the rest of the field.

Brady deserves tons of credit for what he's done this year thus far. He currently leads the league in passing yards (3,771) by more than 100 yards, while his 34 touchdown passes are an NFL-high, too. The Buccaneers are currently just one game back of the Cardinals for first place in the NFC and Brady is a major reason why.

 

But for the second straight week, I'm mentioning Aaron Rodgers, the reigning MVP, as a player to keep an eye on during the final month of the season. Rodgers won the award last year due to a strong December, as Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes was the MVP favorite at this time last year. If Rodgers lights it up over the final five weeks, the Packers star has a legit chance to upend Brady for this honor.

Offensive Player of the Year

Betting favorite: Jonathan Taylor (+100)

Best bet: Jonathan Taylor (+100), Cooper Kupp (+150)

Keep an eye on: N/A

Perhaps the NFL awards race that will be the closest during the stretch run of the 2021 season is the Offensive Player of the Year honor, as both Jonathan Taylor and Cooper Kupp continue to build their cases for this award each week.

Let's start with Taylor, the NFL's rushing leader (by a mile). The Colts star running back currently leads the NFL in touchdowns and has found the end zone at least once in every game since Week 4. Taylor is almost single-handily keeping the Colts in playoff contention and is a threat to score every time he touches the football.

What Taylor is doing on the ground for the Colts is eerily similar to what Kupp is doing through the air for the Rams. Kupp currently leads the NFL in receiving yards by a significant margin and his 11 receiving touchdowns are the most in the league as well. He's a target vacuum and as valuable to the Rams offense as any player is to their respective offenses in the league.

Taylor and Kupp have both turned in fantastic seasons. Both will be named first-team All-Pro this season. But only one of them can win Offensive Player of the Year. Who that ends up being will largely be determined over these next five weeks.

Defensive Player of the Year

Betting favorite: T.J. Watt (+200)

Best bet: T.J. Watt (+200)

Keep an eye on: Myles Garrett (+250)

Move over Myles Garrett, there's a new favorite for Defensive Player of the Year and his name is T.J. Watt.

Watt, who finished second for this award last season behind Aaron Donald, had quite the week. On Monday, he tested positive for COVID-19 but was cleared just five days later on Saturday prior to Ravens-Steelers. Then, in a game Pittsburgh absolutely needed to win, Watt finished with 3.5 sacks -- one of the best outings of his career -- in the Steelers 20-19 win over Baltimore.

After his monster performance on Sunday, Watt (16.0) currently leads the NFL in sacks and has a two-sack lead over Garrett (14.0). That's quite the turnaround from a week ago when Garrett had a half-sack lead.

 

Garrett has had an incredible season thus far, too, and by no means is he out of the Defensive Player of the Year race. But, what the Browns star pass rusher might need to do is have a Watt-like performance over the final five weeks in order to become the betting favorite for this award once again.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Betting favorite: Mac Jones (-500)

Best bet: Mac Jones (-500)

Keep an eye on: Ja'Marr Chase (+350)

Every week, Mac Jones' Offensive Rookie of the Year odds continue to get worse and worse for bettors. The Patriots quarterback currently has New England atop the AFC at 9-4 entering its Week 14 bye. While Jones is certainly not the main reason the Patriots are playing so well -- he threw just three passes in Monday's win over Buffalo, after all -- as of late, he's played a big role during the team's winning streak.

While Jones has been solid for New England, his play alone is not the sole reason why he's become more and more likely to win Offensive Rookie of the Year each week. His main competition, Bengals wideout Ja'Marr Chase, has fallen off tremendously over the past month and a half. 

Less than one month ago, Chase was the favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. But Chase has not topped 52 yards in any of his past five games. A strong finish from Chase could give him a chance to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, but his current trajectory is not looking good.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Betting favorite: Micah Parsons (-2000)

Best bet: N/A

Keep an eye on: N/A

This award race is over. Micah Parsons will win Defensive Rookie of the Year, a statement that has been true for quite some time. And, at -2000 odds, it's not even worth trying to place a bet on him to win this award. 

Parsons has been exceptional this season. He currently has 72 tackles, a league-best 25 tackles for loss and 10 sacks, 2.5 sacks more than 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young finished with for Washington last season. 

At this point in the season, Parsons isn't focused on winning Defensive Rookie of the Year. Now, the rookie is starting to make a legit case to enter the Defensive PLAYER of the Year conversation.

Comeback Player of the Year

Betting favorite: Dak Prescott (-1000)

Best bet: Dak Prescott (-1000)

Keep an eye on: Joe Burrow (+600)

Dak Prescott and Joe Burrow are both very much deserving of the Comeback Player of the Year honor. Having to choose one is not a fun exercise, considering what each player has been through over the past year.

Both players suffered gruesome leg injuries last season, yet returned this year as better quarterbacks. It's no coincidence that Dallas and Cincinnati, two teams that won a combined 10 games last season, are both right in the thick of their respective conference playoff pictures.

 

Prescott is the heavy favorite to win the award as it stands now. That likely won't change for the remainder of the season, as he's been the favorite for this honor the entire year. That should not take away from what Burrow has done this season, though, as the second-year QB should be significantly proud of what he's accomplished this year.

Coach of the Year

Betting favorite: Bill Belichick (+125)

Best bet: Bill Belichick (+125)

Keep an eye on: Kliff Kingsbury (+350)

For the second straight week, Patriots boss Bill Belichick is the favorite to win Coach of the Year, an honor has received three times in his career but not since 2010. All three of his previous Coach of the Year awards came with Tom Brady under center. Should he win this year, this might be his most impressive of them yet.

Belichick's masterclass was on full display on Monday night, as his outcoached Bills' Sean McDermott in New England's 14-10 victory. The weather was disgusting in Buffalo, as severe winds turned the offense into a one-dimensional, rushing team. Still, the Patriots ran for over 200 yards in the victory, with QB Mac Jones only attempting three passes. 

With the victory over Buffalo, the Patriots enter their bye with a 9-4 record and as the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Few people, if anyone, believed that was possible before the season began, especially with New England starting a rookie quarterback. The Patriots are back and Belichick is a major, major reason why.

Let's not count out Kliff Kingsbury for this award just yet, though. The Cardinals boss has Arizona sitting at 10-2 and atop the NFC, despite losing QB Kyler Murray and WR DeAndre Hopkins for multiple weeks this season. Arizona has been one of the biggest surprises this season and Kingsbury is a major reason why.