Football Team

Clubhouse Leader: Looking at the NFL award races after Week 3

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 3.

Week 3 is in the books, as the NFL is quickly approaching the quarter-mark of its first-ever 17-game season.

We've seen some surprises thus far, headlined by the Kansas City Chiefs sitting at 1-2 and in last place of the AFC West, while the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos are a combined 6-0. The Dallas Cowboys look like the clear NFC East favorites, while the Los Angeles Rams might be the team to beat.

Still, though, there's plenty of football left to be played. But, it's not too early to take a deep dive into each of the NFL's annual award races.

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). Without further ado...

Most Valuable Player

Betting favorite: Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady (+700)

Best bet: Mahomes (+700), Aaron Rodgers (+1000)

Keep an eye on: Derek Carr (+1500)

Through three weeks of the season, the two quarterbacks that faced off in last year's Super Bowl, Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady, are co-favorites to win the 2021 NFL MVP award. That shouldn't come as a surprise, as Brady (10) and Mahomes (9) are currently atop the leaderboard for touchdown passes. They're both in the top six for passing yards, too.

 

While Brady or Mahomes could easily win this honor, Aaron Rodgers (+1000) has regained his MVP form after an abysmal Week 1 showing. After throwing four touchdowns in Week 2 against the Lions, Rodgers was extremely sharp on Sunday Night Football, throwing for 261 yards and two touchdowns in a thrilling win over his hometown San Francisco 49ers.

Rodgers also led Green Bay on a game-winning drive against San Francisco after taking over the ball at his own 25-yard line, down one with no timeouts and just 37 seconds left on the clock. After putting the Packers in field goal range, No. 12 pumped his fist with all his might. The reigning MVP is back, in midseason form and could very well win the award this year once again.

While Mahomes, Rodgers and Brady all figured to be in the MVP race entering this season, few thought Las Vegas Raiders QB Derek Carr would be in the conversation. Through three weeks, Carr's Raiders are 3-0. He leads the NFL in passing yards by a significant margin and has thrown six touchdowns to just two interceptions. If the Raiders continue to win, Carr will remain in the MVP convo. At +1500, he's a juicy pick if you're confident on Las Vegas' outlook the rest of the season.

Offensive Player of the Year

Betting favorite: Derrick Henry (+700)

Best bet: Henry (+700)

Keep an eye on: Cooper Kupp (+2000)

All offseason, Derrick Henry was a candidate for regression. Most running backs that rushed for 2,000 yards tend to struggle the following season, as the wear and tear from the year prior catches up to them.

Henry is not normal. The Titans star is off to another great start in 2021, as he has 458 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns through Tennessee's first three games. With A.J. Brown week-to-week with a hamstring injury and Julio Jones not 100% healthy either, the Titans will continue to rely on Henry for offensive production. He certainly seems up to the task.

If there is one long-shot pick to win this award, though, it belongs to Rams wideout Cooper Kupp. Through three weeks, Kupp leads the NFL in receiving yards and has scored a touchdown in each game. He's clearly new quarterback Matt Stafford's favorite target and is on pace for an incredible season. Wide receivers usually don't win Offensive Player of the Year, but Kupp could firmly put himself in the conversation if he continues to ball out as he has.

Defensive Player of the Year

Betting favorite: Myles Garrett (+250)

Best bet: Garrett (+250), Aaron Donald (+450)

Keep an eye on: Chandler Jones (+1600)

Through three weeks, this award appears to already be a two-man race between Myles Garrett and Aaron Donald. 

As of now, Garrett is currently the betting favorite following a monster week against Chicago where he sacked Justin Fields 4.5 times in a blowout Browns victory. Garrett is unquestionably the NFL's best edge rusher and seems to get better each week. It could only be a matter of time before he has minus-odds.

 

But as history tells us, never count out Aaron Donald in the Defensive Player of the Year race. While Garrett is the NFL's best edge rusher, Donald is the league's best defensive player. He's won this award three out of the past four years and could very well be the winner of it once again. While his numbers might not pop as much as others, no defensive player impacts the game the way Donald does.

Lastly, Chandler Jones deserves to keep an eye on, simply because of the epic five-sack outing he had in Week 1. Fans and voters will remember that performance throughout the season and if he were to do something like that once more, he could easily catapult back up near the top of this race. At +1600, Jones has really good odds, too.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Betting favorite: Mac Jones, Ja'Marr Chase (+375)

Best bet: Mac Jones (+375)

Keep an eye on: Najee Harris (+800)

Typically, this award almost always goes to a quarterback. But after three games, this year's rookie class is making it quite difficult for one of them to win it.

Patriots QB Mac Jones has looked the best of all the rookie quarterbacks, but that's not saying much at all. Still, he seems the most likely of the rookie signal-callers to bounce back. As the unquestioned starter, Jones will have ample opportunities to prove himself this season.

But so far in 2021, no rookie has been better than Bengals wideout Ja'Marr Chase. After scoring his fourth touchdown in three games, the No. 5 overall pick is now tied with Jones for the best odds for Offensive Rookie of the Year. He looks every bit of a No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL and with Joe Burrow, his former college QB, under center, that duo should only get better.

The only reason there is to fade Chase right now is when looking at the history of this award. Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson put up 1,400 yards as a rookie last year and still didn't win it. Yes, Chargers QB Justin Herbert did have an incredible rookie season in 2020, but last year proved that it is very difficult for a wideout to win OROY.

Steelers running back Najee Harris is worth keeping an eye on, too. While he hasn't exactly wowed running the football, he's made a significant impact in the aerial attack. Last week, he saw 19 targets from Ben Roethlisberger. Harris' usage throughout the season alone should keep him in this award race.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Betting favorite: Micah Parsons (+425)

Best bet: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (+650)

Keep an eye on: Odafe Oweh (+1300)

After a horrific season in 2020, the Dallas Cowboys knew they needed to improve defensively. Dallas used its first-rounder on linebacker Micah Parsons, and so far that decision is paying off exponentially.

Dallas' defense is flying around the football, forcing turnovers and just playing a lot better brand of football overall. Parsons is a major reason why. In three games, Parsons has notched 13 tackles (two for loss), 1.5 sacks and six quarterback hits. It wouldn't be surprising if Parsons remains the favorite for this award all season.

 

While Parsons has been excellent, the Browns appear to have a second-round steal in linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. The former Notre Dame star's numbers might not be popping just yet, but JOK has been one of the league's best linebackers thus far, according to PFF.

If Owusu-Koramoah continues to thrive, this award could very much be his by the end of the season.  

Last but not least, Ravens pass rusher Odafe Oweh has been one of the league's best defensive rookies thus far, too. The Penn State product arrived on the national stage in Week 2, forcing and recovering a Clyde Edwards-Helaire fumble that helped seal Baltimore's upset victory over Kansas City. Oweh has been solid each week, too, with his snap count continuing to increase. It's early, but he could be next in line of the great Ravens pass rushers.

Comeback Player of the Year

Betting favorite: Dak Prescott (+105)

Best bet: Dak Prescott (+105)

Keep an eye on: Sam Darnold (+700)

It's only Week 4, but the Comeback Player of the Year award might as well already be given to Dak Prescott.

Not only has the Cowboys quarterback returned from a gruesome ankle injury that cost him 11 games last season, but Prescott is playing arguably the best football of his career right now, too. He looks even better than he did before the injury, which shouldn't be possible but it's the reality.

Unless Prescott goes down again, this award is his. What Sam Darnold is doing in Carolina is impressive, but it doesn't even come close to what Prescott is accomplishing in Dallas.

Coach of the Year

Betting favorite: Brandon Staley (+700)

Best bet: Brandon Staley (+700)

Keep an eye on: Matt Rhule (+1000), Jon Gruden (+1100)

The Coach of the Year award is the most difficult one to predict, especially early in the season when so much football is still to be played. That being said, what Brandon Staley is accomplishing with the Chargers so far is quite spectacular.

Staley's Chargers are 2-1 on the year, including a fantastic and thrilling victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead last weekend. The first-year head coach and former Rams defensive coordinator is getting the most out of his defense, too, as the Chargers unit has quietly been one of the NFL's best so far.

The Chargers look every bit of a playoff team at the very least. If things continue on the same trajectory, Staley has as good of a chance as any to win this award.

However, it would be wrong to discuss Coach of the Year without mentioning what Matt Rhule and Jon Gruden have accomplished thus far in Carolina and Las Vegas, respectfully.

Both coaches have their teams undefeated after three weeks, with each club having impressive victories under its belt, too. Las Vegas knocked off Baltimore and Pittsburgh to begin the season, while the Panthers dominated the Saints one week after New Orleans crushed Green Bay, 38-3.

 

There's a long way to go in the 2021 season, but both Rhule and Gruden have their programs trending in the right direction.