Football Team

Does Colts' Taylor have an MVP case? 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 11.

Week 11 of the 2021 NFL season is in the books, and perhaps was one of the wildest slates of the entire season. Colts running back Jonathan Taylor scored five touchdowns against Buffalo, which was followed up by a four-touchdown performance by Chargers running back Austin Ekeler against the Steelers on Sunday Night Football.

Yet, despite another exciting week of games, many of the NFL's annual award races are wide open with seven weeks of the regular season remaining. In fact, there are very few clear cut favorites across the board.

So, where does each award race stand after Week 11?

Here are the betting favorites for each NFL award, the best bets for each honor and analysis for every award race (all odds are provided by NBC Sports partner, PointsBet USA). For our NBA fans, we have you covered every week here.

Without further ado...

Most Valuable Player

Betting favorite: Tom Brady (+250)

Best bet: Tom Brady (+250)

Keep an eye on: Jonathan Taylor (+1600)

Even at age 44, Tom Brady continues to defy Father Time. The greatest quarterback in the history of the sport is currently on pace to win his fourth NFL Most Valuable Player award, which would move him up to second all-time, just behind Peyton Manning's five.

 

The MVP award has been one that has gone to a quarterback in each of the last seven years; Adrian Peterson was the last non-QB to win the honor in 2012. Brady, who currently leads the league in touchdown passes and is second in passing yards, is the favorite to win this year's honor. The next closest quarterback is Josh Allen, who has +650 odds to win MVP but has struggled in each of the last three games.

However, it's time to officially put Jonathan Taylor's name into the MVP conversation. At +1600 odds, he's still a long shot to win the award, but that doesn't mean the Colts star isn't putting together an MVP-like resume.

This past week, Taylor scored five (!!!!!) touchdowns against the Bills, a typically vaunted defense. Taylor leads the NFL in rushing yards by a substantial margin (Derrick Henry, who's injured, is the next closest and 185 yards behind). Taylor's 13 rushing touchdowns are also the league's best.

There are few players across the league that are more valuable to their offense than Taylor is to the Colts. It's time to give him his respect.

Offensive Player of the Year

Betting favorite: Jonathan Taylor (+125)

Best bet: Jonathan Taylor (+125)

Keep an eye on: Cooper Kupp (+250)

At this time last week, Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp was the runaway favorite to win this award. Kupp stood at +120 odds, with the next closest player being Jonathan Taylor at +1100 odds.

Yet, while Kupp and the Rams were on a bye last week, Taylor had the best game of his brief NFL career. Taylor scored five touchdowns against Buffalo, leading the Colts to victory over the Bills. In just one week, Taylor went from a distant second to the favorite for the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year favorite. As I mentioned in the above section, Taylor should be considered in the MVP race as well.

However, let's not count out Kupp just yet. He's already notched 1,141 receiving yards in 10 games, is on pace to come close to Calvin Johnson's single-season yards record. His already massive target share will likely increase with Robert Woods out for the season, too. 

All of a sudden, the Offensive Player of the Year race between Taylor and Kupp is shaping up to be one of the best award race finishes this season.

Defensive Player of the Year

Betting favorite: Myles Garrett (+325)

Best bet: Myles Garrett (+325), Trevon Diggs (+350)

Keep an eye on: T.J. Watt (+600)

For the first time since Oct. 3, Myles Garrett played in a game in which he failed to record a sack. Still, he leads the league in said category and remains the favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year, an award race no player is really beginning to pull away with.

Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs remains Garrett's biggest competitor for the award, as his eight interceptions in 10 games are the NFL's most. However, Diggs' risk-taking style has led to him allowing a lot of yards in coverage, too, something that shouldn't be overlooked when discussing the Defensive Player of the Year.

 

Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt is another name that certainly warrants consideration for this award, but he was unable to play in Week 11 with a hip injury. Even though he didn't play this past week, Watt's 12.5 sacks on the season are still the second-most in the NFL, as he's just 0.5 sacks behind Garrett. Watt is expected to return to action this week against the Bengals, and a big performance from him could catapult his DPOY odds to the top. 

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Betting favorite: Mac Jones (-125)

Best bet: Mac Jones (-125)

Keep an eye on: Ja'Marr Chase (+140)

As I mentioned last week, the Offensive Rookie of the Year award has unofficially turned into a two-man race between Patriots QB Mac Jones and Bengals wideout Ja'Marr Chase. That remains the same this week, however, Jones has officially overtaken Chase as the favorite for the award.

The hype for Jones right now is at an all-time high, especially after he carved up the Falcons' defense on primetime last week. He's easily looked the best of the rookie quarterbacks, too. The Patriots are playing as well as any team in the AFC right now, and Jones' emergence over the past month is a major reason why.

Chase's Offensive Rookie of the Year case has been fueled by the hot start he had to the season, as he's cooled down over the past couple of weeks. Even so, Chase remains top 10 in the NFL in receiving yards and touchdowns, putting together an eerily similar rookie season to the one his former LSU teammate Justin Jefferson turned in last year.

With seven weeks to go, there's still plenty of time for both Jones and Chase to separate themselves from one another. But as of now, it's the quarterback who has the inside track to this award.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Betting favorite: Micah Parsons (-400)

Best bet: Micah Parsons (-400)

Keep an eye on: N/A

Of all the award races, the Defensive Rookie of the Year chase is by far the closest one to being over. Barring injury or something else unforeseen, Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons will be named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year come season's end.

Parsons has been the heavy favorite to win this award for weeks, but his odds jumped up by a significant amount even more this week following a two-sack performance against the Chiefs. Every week he seems to get better and better, as the Cowboys' defense got an absolute gem in the former Penn State star.

Parsons is currently -400 to win the honor, with the next closest odds being Broncos cornerback Patrick Surtain at +1100. Talk about a runaway victory.

Comeback Player of the Year

Betting favorite: Dak Prescott (-450)

 

Best bet: Dak Prescott (-450)

Keep an eye on: Joe Burrow (+600)

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow have been the two names to watch for this award the entire season. That hasn't changed and almost certainly won't before the season ends.

Both signal-callers have returned from gruesome leg injuries this season and turned in remarkable years. Prescott has led the Cowboys to a 7-3 record thus far, while Burrow has led the Bengals to a surprising 6-4 and in the thick of the AFC playoff chase. Both quarterbacks should be thrilled with what they've been able to accomplish thus far this season, especially considering the injuries they suffered last fall.

Prescott remains the favorite to win Comeback Player of the Year, as he's turned in a near-MVP-level season thus far. Burrow has been exceptional, too, and would win this honor in many other years. While Prescott will likely win this award, Burrow should be proud of the way he's played this season returning from an ACL and MCL tear in his left knee.

Coach of the Year

Betting favorite: Kliff Kingsbury (+225)

Best bet: Bill Belichick (+400)

Keep an eye on: Mike Vrabel (+600)

Last week, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel was the clear favorite to win this award, as the Titans had won five straight games and overcome the loss of star running back Derrick Henry. Then, Tennessee got dominated on both sides of the ball by the previously one-win Texans, proving once again that the NFL is off the rails this season.

With bad losses to the Jets and Texans, it's hard to imagine Vrabel still winning Coach of the Year, unless the Titans win out. Arizona boss Kliff Kingsbury is the favorite for the award now, as the Cardinals are a surprising 9-2 and on top of the NFC. What's even more impressive is that they went 2-1 without star quarterback Kyler Murray under center.

But, the best bet for Coach of the Year right now belongs to one of the best head coaches of all time. That would be Bill Belichick, who has the Patriots playing some of the best football of any team in the NFL right now. New England has won four straight games and is clicking on both sides of the ball, despite not having the star-power that many other elite teams in the NFL have.

The Patriots are officially back, and Belichick has reminded everyone why he's a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.