* 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 14.
The middle of December is upon us and the NFL playoff race is getting crazier by the week.
In the NFC, there are 11 teams with six or more wins. Six of those clubs have either six or seven wins and are competing for sixth and seventh seeds -- the final two playoff spots. The AFC playoff race is even crazier, as the current sixth seed (Indianapolis, 7-6) is just one game in front of the current 13th seed (Miami, 6-7).
The NFL playoff picture is not the only thing that has yet to be decided. With just four weeks to play, several of the league's annual award races are still up in the air, including MVP, Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year.
So, where does each award race stand after Week 14?
Here are the betting favorites, the best bets and in-depth analysis for every award race (all odds are provided by NBC Sports partner, PointsBet USA). Without further ado...
Most Valuable Player
Betting favorite: Tom Brady (-170)
Best bet: Tom Brady (-170)
Keep an eye on: Aaron Rodgers (+500)
As I mentioned last week, the 2021 NFL Most Valuable Player award is turning into a two-man race between a pair of quarterbacks that have won this award a combined six times before.
Currently, Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is the favorite to win this award. Brady led the Bucs to an overtime victory over the Bills this past week, as he connected with Breshad Perriman on a 58-yard walk-off touchdown. Brady finished the game with another impressive performance, throwing for 363 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another.
Brady has been as impressive as any quarterback all season. He leads the NFL in passing yards and touchdown passes. Tampa Bay has a decent chance at earning the No. 1 seed in the NFC as well. All the stars are lining up for the GOAT to win his fourth MVP award.
Although Brady is the MVP favorite, Aaron Rodgers won't go down without a fight. Rodgers lit up the Bears on Sunday Night Football, throwing for 341 yards and four touchdowns against Chicago without turning the ball over.
Rodgers won the 2020 MVP due to a strong month of December. He's off to an excellent final month this year, too. Don't count out Rodgers for MVP just yet.
Offensive Player of the Year
Betting favorite: Cooper Kupp (+125)
Best bet: Cooper Kupp (+125), Jonathan Taylor (+150)
Keep an eye on: N/A
The Offensive Player of the Year race between Rams wideout Cooper Kupp and Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is without a doubt the closest battle of any award race. Both players are equally deserving of the honor.
With the Colts on bye in Week 14, Kupp overtook Taylor as the OPOY favorite once again following an outstanding performance against the Cardinals on Monday Night Football. Kupp finished with a season-best 13 catches on the night for 123 yards and a touchdown, his 12th on the season. Kupp has undoubtedly been the best wideout in football this season and seems to put up stat lines like this every week.
Of course, just because the Colts were off this past week doesn't mean we should discount Taylor's case for this award. The second-year running back leads the NFL in rushing by a significant margin. His 18 total touchdowns are also the most in the NFL, too. He's the heart and soul -- excuse the cliche, but it's true -- of the Colts' offense and the main reason Indianapolis is currently in the playoff picture.
With four weeks remaining, it truly is a coin flip between Taylor and Kupp as to who will win Offensive Player of the Year.
Defensive Player of the Year
Betting favorite: Micah Parsons (+220)
Best bet: Myles Garrett (+350)
Keep an eye on: T.J. Watt (+450)
There's a new Defensive Player of the Year favorite and it's not Myles Garrett, T.J. Watt or Aaron Donald. That would be Cowboys rookie Micah Parsons, who has played a major role in turning around one of the worst defenses from last season.
What Parsons is doing this season is simply remarkable. A traditional linebacker in college, Parsons has spent time this season playing defensive end due to injuries on Dallas' defensive front. All Parsons has done is rack up 12 sacks (the seventh-most in the entire NFL), including two against Washington this past Sunday. His performance earned strong praise from Washington coach Ron Rivera, too.
Not to discount what Parsons has done this season one bit, but I still believe Myles Garrett is the best bet to win this award, especially at +350 odds. Despite facing constant double- and triple-teams, Garrett is second in the NFL in sacks and is Pro Football Focus' highest-graded edge rusher in the NFL. He's been the DPOY favorite for most of the season and it would not be surprising at all to see him walk away with the honor at year's end.
Don't count out Steelers' pass rusher T.J. Watt, either. Watt is currently dealing with a minor groin injury, yet there's a real possibility he won't have to miss any time. Watt currently leads the NFL in sacks (16.5) and has an outside shot at breaking Michael Strahan's single-season record (22.5). Watt has solid odds at +450, too, making him an enticing candidate.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Betting favorite: Mac Jones (-449)
Best bet: Ja'Marr Chase (+325)
Keep an eye on: N/A
Like the Offensive Player of the Year race, the battle for Offensive Rookie of the Year has come down to just two players: Patriots quarterback Mac Jones and Bengals wideout Ja'Marr Chase.
Jones overtook Chase about a month ago as the favorite for this award, as the Patriots quarterback has led New England to seven straight victories. The Patriots were on bye in Week 14, but Jones' OROY odds did not dip much despite him not playing.
After a stretch of cold games, Chase bounced back in a big way this past week, keeping his Rookie of the Year case very much alive. The former LSU star hauled in five catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns against the 49ers, including one that pushed the game into overtime.
At +325 odds, Chase still has solid value. Should he finish the season strong, he could truly push Jones for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Betting favorite: Micah Parsons (-20000)
Best bet: N/A
Keep an eye on: N/A
Micah Parsons is not only the overwhelming favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year, but the Cowboys star is currently the favorite to win Defensive PLAYER of the Year (see above). That tells you everything you need to know about this award race. It's over.
Comeback Player of the Year
Betting favorite: Dak Prescott (-1000)
Best bet: Dak Prescott (-1000)
Keep an eye on: Joe Burrow (+600)
The Comeback Player of the Year odds have not changed for a second consecutive week. Barring something unforeseen, Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is going to win this honor.
As I've stated all along, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow deserves to be in consideration for this award as well. Burrow suffered a torn ACL and MCL last season, returned for Week 1 and has led the Bengals to a 7-6 record thus far. Cincinnati is in the thick of the playoff race (they could still win the AFC North, too) and Burrow is a major reason why.
Another player that won't win the award but deserves recognition for their return this season is 49ers pass rusher Nick Bosa. After suffering a torn ACL in Week 2 of last season, Bosa has been dominant for San Francisco this year. He currently has 14 sacks on the season -- tied for the third-most in the NFL. That's an impressive season regardless, let alone in his first year back from a gruesome leg injury.
Coach of the Year
Betting favorite: Bill Belichick (+100)
Best bet: Bill Belichick (+100)
Keep an eye on: Matt LaFleur (+700)
The Patriots were on bye in Week 14, yet Bill Belichick's Coach of the Year odds went from +125 to +100 despite New England not even playing. At this point in the season, Belichick is the clear-cut favorite to win the award.
With four weeks to play, New England currently sits at 9-4 and in first place in the AFC. They've won seven straight games with a rookie QB under center. The Patriots don't have the star power some of the other teams atop the standings do, but they play sound, fundamental football, a product of Belichick and his staff.
Although Belichick is plenty deserving of Coach of the Year, it's time to give Matt LaFleur his flowers for the job he's done in Green Bay this season. Between Aaron Rodgers' threat to holdout this offseason, to the QB's vaccination drama, and to a bunch of other issues, LaFleur has rallied his bunch and has Green Bay in first place in the NFC with four games to go. LaFleur deserves serious consideration for this award.