Tom Brady, MVP again? 2021 NFL award race update after Week 12


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 12.

Thanksgiving is over, the calendar has flipped to December and Week 12 of the NFL regular season is in the books. You know what that means: it's officially the homestretch of the 2021 NFL season.

With six weeks to play, there are several teams in both conferences still in the hunt for a playoff spot. In fact, only the Lions, Seahawks, Jets, Texans and Jaguars figure to be out of the postseason hunt. With so many teams having plenty to play for, the final month and a half of the season should be an exciting one.

When it comes to the NFL's annual awards, though, few players are separating themselves from the pack. With about one-third of the season remaining, several of the league's annual individual honors are up for grabs.

So, where does each award race stand after Week 11?

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 (+250)

Best bet: Tom Brady (+250)

Keep an eye on: Josh Allen (+500), Aaron Rodgers (+600)

The NFL's Most Valuable Player award race is far from over, but 44-year-old Tom Brady is starting to have a firm grasp on what would be his fourth MVP honor.


Statistically, Brady is having the best season of any quarterback this year. He is currently second in passing yards (just 11 yards behind Derek Carr) and his 30 touchdowns are the most of any signal-caller. Brady's only blemish is that he's thrown nine interceptions this season, but 13 other QBs have thrown as many this year, including Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson.

Yet, as I mentioned in the introduction, just because Brady is the favorite doesn't mean he's guaranteed to win the award. Last year at this time, Mahomes was the heavy favorite to win MVP. But after a strong December, Aaron Rodgers surpassed him and took home the trophy.

Such could be the case this year with Rodgers or Allen, too. Rodgers' Packers are playing excellent football right now, and there's a chance the team finishes with the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Despite a toe injury, Rodgers has been extremely productive since returning from COVID and is right in the thick of the MVP race. If No. 12 has another great December run in him, it would not be surprising for Rodgers to go back-to-back.

For Allen, he has a great chance to boost his MVP stock on Monday Night Football. Buffalo is facing the Patriots in a crucial battle for the top spot in the AFC East. If Allen shows out against New England -- a team that has won six in a row and has been playing lights out defensively -- that could go a long way for his MVP case. Plus, the Bills have a favorable schedule to end the year where Allen should be able to pad his stats.

Offensive Player of the Year

Betting favorite: Jonathan Taylor (+150)

Best bet: Jonathan Taylor (+150), Cooper Kupp (+250)

Keep an eye on: N/A

During the first half of the year, this award seemed like a mortal lock to go to Titans star running back Derrick Henry. Then, unfortunately, Henry injured his foot and has been sidelined since, with it looking increasingly likely that he misses the remainder of the year.

Once Henry went down, Rams wideout Cooper Kupp became the overwhelming favorite for this honor. Kupp is still having a tremendous season, but the stretch Jonathan Taylor has been on for the Colts over the last two months has catapulted him to the favorite for this award. Now, it looks like it will be a two-man race to the finish line.

Taylor has scored a touchdown in nine straight games for Indianapolis and currently leads the NFL in rushing. Kupp, who currently leads the NFL in receiving yards, has a realistic chance of breaking Calvin Johnson's single-season receiving yards record, too.

At this point in the season with six games to play, both Kupp and Taylor are great bets for this award. It's a shame that they both can't win it.


Defensive Player of the Year

Betting favorite: Myles Garrett (+150)

Best bet: Myles Garrett (+150), 

Keep an eye on: Trevon Diggs (+500)

Through the first half of the 2021 season, a handful of players across the league had made the case for themselves to be the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. But with just six games remaining, one guy has begun to pull away from the rest.

That would be pass rusher Myles Garrett, who had another big outing for Cleveland on Sunday Night Football despite the Browns falling to the Ravens, 16-10. Garrett was all over the field in that matchup, recording five tackles and his NFL-high 14th sack on the season.

Garrett has undoubtedly been the best pass rusher in the NFL this season. This feels like the year he'll finally be rewarded for it by being named the league's best defensive player.

Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs is worth keeping an eye on, just in case he goes on another interception spree like he did to begin the season. Should Diggs finish with 12 or 13 picks, he'll have a legitimate case against Garrett for this award. But for now, it's Garrett's award to lose.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Betting favorite: Mac Jones (-300)

Best bet: Mac Jones (-300)

Keep an eye on: Ja'Marr Chase (+200)

At one point earlier in the season, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones was +900 to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. Now, he's the overwhelming favorite to win the honor, with his odds getting worse and worse for bettors each week.

It makes sense why Jones is now the clear-cut favorite, though. The Patriots have won six in a row and it feels as if Jones takes another step in his game every week. While his numbers might now 'wow' you, Jones is playing exactly the style of football Bill Belichick wants, and it's a formula that could take the Patriots deep into the playoffs.

For Jones' sake, it also helps that his main competitor for the award, Bengals receiver Ja'Marr Chase, has cooled down a bit from his hot start to the season. Chase has not totaled more than 50 receiving yards in a game since Oct. 24. While he's still managed to find the end zone twice during that span, he'll have to do a lot more down the stretch to overtake Jones for this award.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Betting favorite: Micah Parsons (-800)

Best bet: Micah Parsons (-800)

Keep an eye on: N/A

This award race is over. In fact, even if Micah Parsons were to get hurt, he'd still likely win Defensive Rookie of the Year due to how dominant he's been for Dallas' defense this season. 

Parsons was just named the Defensive Rookie of the Month for November. During that span, he finished with 25 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Those are elite numbers regardless, especially for a rookie.

Behind Parsons, the next best odds for Defensive Rookie of the Year are Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain at +800. Yeah, it's a wrap.


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)

PointsBet USA has currently removed its Comeback Player of the Year odds, but the race for the award is almost certainly between two quarterbacks: Dak Prescott and Joe Burrow.

Prescott and Burrow are each coming off devasting leg injuries, but each quarterback has their respective team at 7-4 with six games to play. Both the Cowboys and Bengals are likely to play into the middle of January, and perhaps longer, thanks to the excellent play from the two signal-callers.

Prescott has been the favorite to win Comeback Player of the Year for most of the season, which makes sense given the horrific ankle fracture he suffered last season. Burrow's recovery from a torn ACL and MCL should not be discredited, though, as the second-year quarterback returned quickly from a gruesome injury.

Both Prescott and Burrow have great cases to win this award. While Prescott will likely be the winner, both passers should be incredibly proud of what they've accomplished this season.

Coach of the Year

Betting favorite: Kliff Kingsbury (+300), Bill Belichick (+300)

Best bet: Bill Belichick (+300)

Keep an eye on: Matt LaFleur (+600)

There's a new leader in the clubhouse for the first time this season: Patriots head coach and future Hall of Famer Bill Belichick. At +300 odds, he's currently tied with Cardinals boss Kliff Kingsbury -- who's been among the favorites for this award the entire season -- for the 2021 Coach of the Year.

In just one season, Belichick has rebuilt the Patriots and made them a contender once again. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones is playing excellent, while the Patriots defense is thriving once again. New England has won six in a row and looks like a true title contender in the AFC.

Although Belichick is receiving a lot of credit for what he's done in New England, we can't rule out Kingsbury for this award yet, either. Kingsbury has the Cardinals sitting at 9-2 and atop the NFC, despite the team's two best offensive players, Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins, along with key contributors J.J. Watt and Chase Edmunds, all injured. Arizona is a complete team and Kingsbury's coaching is a major reason why.

Another name that warrants some Coach of the Year discussion is Packers boss Matt LaFleur. He's 36-9 since taking over as Green Bay's head coach and went undefeated in November for the third consecutive year.

LaFleur has done an excellent job since taking over as the Packers' head coach and deserves plenty of credit for the team's success.