Football Team

Clubhouse Leader: Looking at the NFL award races after Week 6

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 6.

Week 6 of the NFL season is in the books, meaning the 2021 campaign is officially over one-third of the way through. Now, there's a large enough sample size to begin separating the pretenders from the contenders.

This past weekend's slate didn't have as many thrilling games as in week's past. The Ravens dominated the Chargers, 34-6, in a clash of previously 4-1 teams. Arizona blew out Cleveland to remain undefeated. Week 6's best game came on Monday Night Football, as the Titans upset the Bills in a thriller, 34-31.

With 11 weeks still to go, there's plenty of football to be played and time for narratives to change. But, it's not too early to look at 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: Kyler Murray (+350)

Best bet: Kyler Murray (+350)

Keep an eye on: Dak Prescott (+500), Lamar Jackson (+1000)

It's time to stop doubting Kyler Murray.

The Cardinals are 6-0, coming off a dominant blowout victory over the Cleveland Browns. Yes, Cleveland was missing multiple starters, but the Cardinals were without their head coach and still went into First Energy Stadium and dominated. Much of the credit should go to Murray, who threw for four touchdowns in the win.

 

Murray is on pace for a career-best season. His team is 6-0, the league's last undefeated club. If the season were to end today, he'd be the runaway MVP. We'll see if anyone can stop Murray, but for now he's got this award on lock.

One name that has continued to rise up the MVP rankings is Cowboys passer Dak Prescott. He's led Dallas to five consecutive wins following a Week 1 loss in Tampa and has the Cowboys looking like a true contender for the first time in at least five years.

Through six weeks, Prescott has thrown for 1,813 yards, 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions. In terms of pure value, there are only a handful of quarterbacks who mean more to their respective team than Dak.

Offensive Player of the Year

Betting favorite: Derrick Henry (+300)

Best bet: Derrick Henry (+300)

Keep an eye on: It doesn't matter

Through six weeks of the season, there's no one else worth mentioning for Offensive Player of the Year other than Titans running back Derrick Henry.

Henry is the heavy favorite at +300, odds likely to continue shifting towards even as the season goes on. Henry has rushed for over 100 yards and three touchdowns in two straight games, with his latest performance leading Tennessee to an upset victory over the previously 4-1 Bills.

Henry leads all running backs in carries (162), yards (783), and touchdowns (10) by a substantial margin. Quarterbacks aside, there's no offensive player that can influence a game the way Henry can. He's on pace for back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons, something that has never been done before.

Forget King Henry. He's Emperor Henry now.

Defensive Player of the Year

Betting favorite: Trevon Diggs (+300)

Best bet: Diggs (+300), Myles Garrett (+350)

Keep an eye on:  Aaron Donald (+800)

Two weeks ago, I told you to keep an eye on Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs. Last week, I said he was the best bet for Defensive Player of the Year. Now, he's the betting favorite for the award.

Diggs recorded his seventh interception of the season on Sunday, a crucial pick-six that put the Cowboys ahead of New England late in the fourth quarter. His touchdown didn't seal the game -- as Diggs and safety Damontae Kazee allowed a long touchdown the following drive -- but once again, Diggs came up big for Dallas' defense when they needed it.

Diggs has allowed a lot of yards this season, but he also has the best ball skills of any cornerback in the NFL. If he continues to haul in interceptions at this historic rate, it'll be hard for the DPOY award to head anywhere else.

Two names to continue keeping an eye on for this award are Browns pass rusher Myles Garrett and Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The two defensive linemen are the most disruptive defensive players in football and significantly impact games on a weekly basis. For an award that has gone to a defensive lineman more than any other position, don't count either player out just yet.

 

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Betting favorite: Ja'Marr Chase (+250)

Best bet: Ja'Marr Chase (+250)

Keep an eye on: Trevor Lawrence (+600)

This award has gone to almost exclusively quarterbacks as of late, but Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase is the clear frontrunner for Offensive Rookie of the Year right now.

Chase currently has the fourth-most receiving yards of any player in the NFL this season and is on pace to break his former LSU teammate Justin Jefferson's rookie receiving yards record that he set last season. He's emerged as Joe Burrow's favorite target and is already one of the best deep threats in the entire league.

If there is one quarterback that could challenge Chase as of now, it's the 2021 No. 1 overall pick, Trevor Lawrence. The Jaguars' signal-caller earned his first win of the season this past week and looked really solid, too. Despite all of the turmoil in Jacksonville this offseason, Lawrence has objectively looked the best of any rookie QB this year.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Betting favorite: Micah Parsons (+225)

Best bet: Micah Parsons (+225)

Keep an eye on: Asante Samuel Jr. (+1000)

What has been a three-man race thus far has quickly turned into a two-man battle between Micah Parsons and Asante Samuel Jr. Browns linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who has been plenty impactful this year, was placed on Injured Reserve for what the team expects to be several weeks with a high ankle sprain.

Parsons is the heavy favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year and for good reason. His impact is obvious when comparing the 2021 Cowboys defense to last year's Dallas squad. While Parsons' impact might not always show up in the stat sheet, he's certainly a major reason why the Cowboys' defense has been exponentially better this season. 

Samuel Jr. has had a strong start to his rookie season but has cooled off as of late. He still remains the biggest challenger to Parsons for the award, but the gap between the two seems to grow by the week.

Comeback Player of the Year

Betting favorite: Dak Prescott (-350)

Best bet: Dak Prescott (-350)

Keep an eye on: Joe Burrow (+800)

This award race is all but over. Dak Prescott will be named the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year, barring another serious injury.

Prescott has led Dallas to a 5-1 record in his return from a gruesome, compound ankle fracture that sidelined him for 11 games last year. Not only is Prescott fully healthy, but he's playing the best football of his career. He's thrown 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions. And, as I mentioned earlier, he's firmly in the MVP race as well. 

 

It's worth mentioning that Prescott did injure his calf on the final play of Sunday's walk-off win over the Patriots, but the Cowboys QB believes he'll be ready to go following the team's bye week.

The fact that Prescott will likely win Comeback Player of the Year is not an indictment on what Joe Burrow has done this year, though. Burrow has been great, and his Bengals are sitting at 4-2 as one of the NFL's more surprising teams. In many other years, Burrow would win this award. He's just up against some serious competition this season.

Coach of the Year

Betting favorite: Kliff Kingsbury (+400), Brandon Staley (+400)

Best bet: Kliff Kingsbury (+400), Brandon Staley (+400)

Keep an eye on: John Harbaugh (+900)

Through six weeks of the 2021 season, the Coach of the Year award could easily be given to two select coaches: Chargers boss Brandon Staley or Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Let's start with Kingsbury, who has Arizona 6-0 this season, the league's last undefeated team. The Cardinals offense is loaded with talent and virtually impossible to gameplan for, while the defense has plenty of young stars and a few Canton-bound veterans. Playing in the feared NFC West, what Kingsbury has done this season is exceptional thus far.

For Staley, his Coach of the Year candidacy took a hit this past weekend when the Chargers were routed by Baltimore, 34-6. This one game shouldn't take away what Staley has done this season, though, as he's turned the Chargers from a young team with talent, to a true contender. He'll have plenty of more chances to prove his worth for this award, too.

What John Harbaugh has done in Baltimore this season is worth recognizing, however. The Ravens have arguably been bit by the injury bug more than any other team, yet Baltimore is 5-1 through six weeks with victories over the Chiefs and Chargers under its belt. Harbaugh is just as worthy as any coach for this award right now.