Football Team

Leader in the Clubhouse: NFL award races are wide open

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 10.

The 2021 NFL season is over halfway done, yet there is no clear separation between the pretenders and contenders this year. Every single team in the league has at least two losses, while four .500-or-worse teams have defeated divisional leaders in each of the past two weeks.

While there's tremendous parity among teams this season, there are also no clear frontrunners for most of the league's annual awards. Each award, including MVP, appears to be wide-open, with a handful of players or coaches contending for each honor.

So, where does each award race stand after Week 10?

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: Josh Allen (+300)

Best bet: Patrick Mahomes (+1400)

Keep an eye on: Lamar Jackson (+1100)

Of all the NFL awards, the race for Most Valuable Player is the most intriguing. Without exaggerating, there are at least six to eight players that are firmly in contention for the league's most prestigious individual award.

 

However, at this point in time, there's no clear favorite for the honor. Bills QB Josh Allen has the best odds and has the chance to really build his case with Buffalo's favorable schedule. Then again, if he turns in a few more performances like he did in Week 9 against Jacksonville, he'll completely leave this conversation.

With no clear favorite, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the one player I personally would bet on at this point in time. It's no secret Kansas City has struggled this year, but they looked like the Chiefs od old this past Sunday in a blowout win over the Raiders. Mahomes looked like his MVP self. And, don't look now, he's top-two in both yards and touchdown passes. At +1400, any Mahomes bettors could make some significant cash if he continues to trend the way he has.

Like Mahomes, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is another name to keep an eye on. The 2019 NFL MVP had been building a great case for himself prior to Baltimore's loss to Miami this past week. But even so, Jackson remains firmly in a race, as I mentioned before, that has no clear favorite.

Offensive Player of the Year

Betting favorite: Cooper Kupp (+120)

Best bet: Cooper Kupp (+120)

Keep an eye on: Jonathan Taylor (+1100)

Ever since Titans running back Derrick Henry went down with a likely season-ending foot injury, Rams wideout Cooper Kupp has been the clear favorite to win Offensive Player of the Year. Right now, it's his award to lose.

Kupp, who has already notched 1,141 receiving yards in 10 games, is on pace to come close to Calvin Johnson's single-season yards record. He'll likely have an even bigger role (if that's even possible) in the Rams offense moving forward, too, with Robert Woods out for the year with an ACL tear. Kupp is having an all-time season right now and will likely be rewarded for it come February.

If there is one player who could challenge Kupp for this honor, though, it's Colts running back Jonathan Taylor. The second-year pro is currently the NFL's rushing leader and has scored a touchdown in seven straight games. With Henry out, perhaps no non-quarterback means more to its offense than JT.

Defensive Player of the Year

Betting favorite: Myles Garrett (+250)

Best bet: Myles Garrett (+250)

Keep an eye on: TJ Watt (+450)

The Defensive Player of the Year race is shaping up to have an exciting finish between two elite pass rushers: Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt.

Garrett, the favorite for the award, is currently the NFL's sack leader with 13.0. He's had at least one sack in each of his last four games and in six of the last seven contests, too. Garrett has clearly emerged as the best pass rusher in the NFL -- it would be disrespectful to give someone else that title.

Yet, Watt is not too far behind him in this race at all. The Steelers pass-rusher has five sacks in his last three games and is playing some of the best football of his career right now. Yes, he did get injured in Week 10, but he's not expected to miss too much time, if any at all. 

 

In 2020, Watt felt as if he should have won this award. Yet, he finished as the runner-up to Aaron Donald. This year, expect Watt to do everything in his power to win this honor and not let last year repeat itself again.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Betting favorite: Ja'Marr Chase (-115)

Best bet: Mac Jones (+115)

Keep an eye on: N/A

The Offensive Rookie of the Year award has unofficially turned into a two-man race between Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase and Patriots quarterback Mac Jones.

Chase has been the favorite for much of the year following his hot start to his rookie season. The Bengals pass-catcher is currently fifth in receiving yards and eighth in touchdowns, by far the highest marks of any rookie. He's had a tremendous start to his career and still has plenty of time left to add to his OROY case.

Yet, this award has typically gone to a quarterback in recent years. And, with Mac Jones' recent hot play, the Patriots' signal-caller has shot up the Offensive Rookie of the Year odds board.

Jones' Patriots have won four straight games, with the rookie QB looking better by the week. New England is a true playoff contender in the AFC and Jones is a major reason why. If Jones and the Patriots continue to stay hot, it wouldn't be much of a surprise at all to see him as the favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year come to the end of the season.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Betting favorite: Micah Parsons (-165)

Best bet: Micah Parsons (-165)

Keep an eye on: N/A

Of all the awards, the Defensive Rookie of the Year race -- along with Comeback Player of the Year, which I'll get to momentarily -- is the closest to being over. Barring something unforeseen, Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons will be the winner of this honor come season's end.

Parsons has been incredible for a Cowboys' defense that has turned things around significantly from last season. His six sacks lead all Cowboys defenders, while his 58 tackles are the second-most on the team. 

It's not an over-exaggeration to say Parsons is already the most important player to Dallas' defense, especially with pass rusher Demarcus Lawrence injured. Parsons will win this award in a landslide, and deservingly so.

Comeback Player of the Year

Betting favorite: Dak Prescott (-500)

Best bet: Dak Prescott (-500)

Keep an eye on: Joe Burrow (+800)

This one also comes as no surprise, as Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has been the clear favorite to win Comeback Player of the Year since Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season. 

For Prescott, even returning to the level of play he was at pre-injury would have been remarkable. But the Cowboys signal-caller has returned from a gruesome leg injury as a better quarterback, playing the best football of his NFL career. Not only is Prescott the favorite for this honor, but he's right in the thick of the MVP race as well.

 

While Prescott will almost certainly win this award, it's worth mentioning the success Joe Burrow has had this season coming off an ACL and MCL injury as well. The Bengals have overachieved thus far this season, largely due to the emergence of its second-year franchise quarterback. Burrow is as tough as they come and Cincinnati has a bright future ahead of them with No. 9 under center.

Coach of the Year

Betting favorite: Mike Vrabel (+300)

Best bet: Mike Vrabel (+300)

Keep an eye on: Kliff Kingsbury (+600)

No Derrick Henry, no problem. The Titans lost their best player for likely the season, but head coach Mike Vrabel has stayed the course and currently has his club sitting at 8-2 and atop the AFC. Who say that coming at the beginning of the season?

For a team that entered the season with many question marks, especially on the defensive side of the football, what Vrabel has been able to get out of his squad thus far is nothing short of impressive.

Yet, what Kliff Kingsbury has done in Arizona this year has been equally as impressive, too. At full health, the Cardinals have proven themselves to be among the NFL's elite, just one year removed from finishing 8-8. Kyler Murray has received a lot of the credit for Arizona's early-season success, but Kingsbury and also the team's defense are equally responsible.

How the season shakes out will largely determine the winner of this award, but don't be surprised if Vrabel and Kingsbury are the two coaches that voters end up having to choose between.