Football Team

Clubhouse Leader: Looking at the NFL award races after Week 8

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 8.

Week 8 is officially in the books, meaning the 2021 NFL season is nearing its halfway point.

There no longer are any undefeated teams, as the Arizona Cardinals fell to the Green Bay Packers on Thursday Night Football this past week. The New York Jets pulled off the biggest upset of the year, knocking off Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals -- the previously No. 1 seed in the AFC -- with backup QB Mike White under center.

However, arguably the biggest news of the weekend came on the injury front, as Titans running back Derrick Henry suffered a potentially season-ending injury this past Sunday. Henry was on pace for another 2,000-yard season and was building both MVP and Offensive Player of the Year award cases.

There still are several other players fighting for each of the NFL's individual awards, though. 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 at the beginning of every week here.

Without further ado...

Most Valuable Player

Betting favorite: Josh Allen (+300)

 

Best bet: Kyler Murray (+550)

Keep an eye on: Matt Stafford (+550)

For the first time in weeks, Kyler Murray is no longer the MVP favorite following the Cardinals' first loss of the season last Thursday vs. Green Bay. That belongs to Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who has led Buffalo to five wins in its last six games.

The Bills have a very favorable schedule the rest of the season, as Buffalo could truly win every single game remaining on its schedule. If the Bills go on a run to end the year, and Allen continues to ascend the way he has the past two seasons, he'll certainly be in the running for MVP.

But as it stands now, Murray is still the best bet to win Most Valuable Player. He's dynamic with both his arm and his legs. The Cardinals are one of the best feel-good stories in the NFL right now, but they're also a legit contender and Murray is the main reason why. 

And, as I said last week, Rams quarterback Matt Stafford is another player to keep an eye on in this race. Los Angeles is 7-1 and right now, the betting favorite to win the NFC. Stafford is on pace for the best statistical season of his career -- one that should keep him in the MVP race all season long.

Offensive Player of the Year

Betting favorite: Cooper Kupp (N/A)

Best bet: Cooper Kupp (N/A)

Keep an eye on: Deebo Samuel (N/A)

Titans running back Derrick Henry had the 2021 Offensive Player of the Year award all but locked up prior to suffering a potential season-ending foot injury this past Sunday. Henry was such a heavy favorite for the honor (he won OPOY in 2020, too) that PointsBet has yet to update the new odd listings for the award.

But, once the new odds are released, Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp has the inside track for this award. He, along with 49ers wideout Deebo Samuel, is on pace to break Calvin Johnson's single-season receiving yards record. Kupp is having a career year with Matt Stafford under-center, as the duo is one of the NFL's most unstoppable pairings.

Samuel has a decent chance at making a run for this award, too. He's second in receiving yards in the NFL behind Kupp and recently passed Jerry Rice for the team's franchise receiving yards record through seven games. Samuel has practically been the entire 49ers offense this season and has shown no signs of slowing down at all.

 

Defensive Player of the Year

Betting favorite: Myles Garrett (+300)

Best bet: Myles Garrett (+300)

Keep an eye on: Aaron Donald (+800)

At this point, it would be disrespectful to call anyone else the best pass rusher in the NFL other than Myles Garrett. The Browns star seems to get to the quarterback at least once each week and currently leads the entire league with 10.5 sacks through eight games.

 

Garrett has been on a tear recently, as he's recorded at least one sack in each of his last four games and nine sacks over the past six weeks. He's the most dominant defensive player at this current point and should be the favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year. I mean, just look at his Halloween costume. It tells you everything you need to know.

As I've said throughout this series, though, Aaron Donald can never be counted out of the DPOY race. Donald has won this award in three of the past four years and remains one of the best defensive players in the sport. With future Hall of Famer Von Miller now rushing on the end, Donald could have more 1-on-1 opportunities now than ever. Don't be surprised if his numbers explode over the second half of the season.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Betting favorite: Ja'Marr Chase (-200)

Best bet: Ja'Marr Chase (-200)

Keep an eye on: Mac Jones (+400)

If you haven't placed a bet on Ja'Marr Chase to win Offensive Rookie of the Year by now, it might be too late. Each week, Chase's odds continue to get worse, as he's now the heavy favorite to win the award he is running away with.

Chase is currently third in the NFL in receiving yards and tied for fourth in receiving touchdowns. Those aren't just great numbers for a rookie, either. What Chase is doing this year is borderline All-Pro worthy.

If there is any other player that could make a run at this award, it's Patriots quarterback Mac Jones. Quarterbacks have frequently been the recipient of this honor and Jones is by far playing the best of the rookie bunch.

Jones and the Patriots are 4-4 and coming off a big win over the Chargers. With a decently favorable schedule on the horizon, don't be surprised if Jones starts to light up the stat sheet. And if he does, he'll quickly re-enter the OROY race.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Betting favorite: Micah Parsons (-106)

Best bet: Micah Parsons (-106)

Keep an eye on: N/A

*insert Vince Carter 'it's over' meme here*

Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons began the 2021 season as the favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year, something that has not wavered throughout the first eight weeks. And, after his big performance this past week, this race is all but over.

Parsons recorded 11 tackles (four for loss) during Dallas' big Sunday night win over Minnesota, a game Dallas played without star quarterback Dak Prescott. Parsons was by far the best defensive player on the field during that game -- showcasing all his skills as to why Dallas used its first-round pick on him. His effort earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors, too.

While Washington fans began the season hoping that their first-round pick, linebacker Jamin Davis, could contend for this award, the eventual winner is going to be Parsons, the player that was selected eight spots before Davis. 

 

Comeback Player of the Year

Betting favorite: Dak Prescott (N/A)

Best bet: Dak Prescott (N/A)

Keep an eye on: Joe Burrow (N/A)

Like the Offensive Player of the Year award, PointsBet USA has also currently removed its listing for Comeback Player of the Year. But, as it has been for weeks, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is the heavy favorite to win this honor.

Prescott didn't play last week against the Vikings with a calf strain, but he's expected to return to the Cowboys' lineup this week against the Broncos. Assuming he's able to stay healthy for the rest of the season, he'll almost certainly be the winner of this award.

As I mentioned last week, though, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is building a compelling case for this award, too. The 2020 No. 1 overall pick has returned from a gruesome knee injury and turned the Bengals into a true contender in the AFC, even if they fell last week to the lowly Jets. He's certainly a name to watch moving forward, especially if the Bengals get back to their winning ways.

Coach of the Year

Betting favorite: Kliff Kingsbury (+500)

Best bet: Kliff Kingsbury (+500)

Keep an eye on: Mike McCarthy (+650)

Although the Cardinals are no longer undefeated, what Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury has done with his squad this season is not going unnoticed. The Cardinals are for real, and one loss to the Packers -- a game that was played on a short week -- doesn't change the fact that Arizona is a true contender in the NFC.

Arizona plays in the toughest division in the NFL, yet they've already defeated all three teams once, including the high-powered Los Angeles Rams -- a victory that came in convincing fashion. Kingsbury has done a great job in the desert this season and deserves credit for Arizona's success.

As someone who has watched several Packers games over the past decade, giving the name Mike McCarthy Coach of the Year consideration seems impossible. But, the now-Cowboys head coach has certainly earned his way to be part of the discussion.

McCarthy's most impressive win this season came last week, as Dallas traveled to Minnesota and defeated the Vikings without its starting quarterback Dak Prescott. The win showed just how well-rounded Dallas truly is and that the club is not fully dependent on its star signal-caller to be successful.

McCarthy certainly deserves to be in consideration for Coach of the Year, as difficult as it is to believe for those who watched his last few years at the helm in Green Bay.