Week 18 of the NFL season is upon us. While a lot has been decided across the league, there is also plenty that is yet to be decided. The same applies to the end of the season awards market. Patrick Mahomes is a massive -1400 favorite to win NFL MVP and it would be shocking if he doesn’t win the award. Odds for NFL Defensive Player of the Year are off the board altogether as Nick Bosa seems to have run away with the award.
While those awards might already be decided barring a miracle, there are three awards that are still very much up in the air entering the final week of the season. According to the oddsmakers, the awards for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year and Coach of the Year are all very much up for grabs.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
It’s been a roller coaster ride in terms of the race for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Breece Hall had emerged as the betting favorite to win the award, but he tore his ACL midway through the season. That opened up the race for the award, and that’s reflected in the current betting odds:
Kenneth Walker (-130)
Garrett Wilson (+195)
Brock Purdy (+400)
Kenny Pickett (18-to-1)
Christian Watson (25-to-1)
Chris Olave (30-to-1)
Brian Robinson Jr. (30-to-1)
Walker is the current odds-on favorite to win the award. He’s currently at 936 yards on the season and could theoretically eclipse 1,000 rushing yards with a good performance in Seattle’s finale against the Los Angeles Rams. That becomes even more impressive when you realize Walker didn’t become the top option at running back until mid-October and also missed a game due to injury.
Garrett Wilson has already eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards on the season despite putrid quarterback play. Wilson has been the most productive rookie wide receiver, although Chris Olave has produced more on a per-game basis. No other rookie wide receiver is particularly close to those two. Wilson certainly passes the eye test and there’s little doubt he’d have even better numbers with competent quarterback play.
Brock Purdy has the third best odds to win the award which is rather ridiculous when you consider that he will have made just five starts this season at quarterback for San Francisco. Purdy has certainly been much better than anyone anticipated, but that’s an extremely quarterback friendly system and he’s played a little over a quarter of the season. I don’t buy it.
Kenny Pickett becomes somewhat interesting if the Pittsburgh Steelers can miraculously sneak into the playoffs again. He has led back-to-back game-winning drives in the final minutes. His body of work over the entire season isn’t great, but recency bias might help out. On top of that, he’s a quarterback and we know award voters love their quarterbacks.
Comeback Player of the Year
The tightest race of them all might just be taking place in the market for NFL Comeback Player of the Year. We have three players with nearly identical odds to win the award and a fourth player sniffing around on the peripheries:
Geno Smith is a co-favorite to win the award. Smith has a chance to lead the Seahawks to the playoffs if they can beat the Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay loses to Detroit. Obviously, Smith’s story is well known. He got drafted by the New York Jets out of West Virginia, struggled on the field, got punched in the face by a teammate over $600 and then bounced around the league as a backup quarterback for almost a decade. After the Seahawks traded Russell Wilson over the offseason, Smith won a quarterback battle against Drew Lock in camp and now leads the league in completion percentage while ranking 4th in touchdown passes and 7th in passing yards. He’s been much better than the quarterback he replaced in Seattle.
We all knew that both Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley were elite talents at the running back position, but both players struggled to stay on the field in recent years. This year, both have stayed healthy. McCaffrey got traded to San Francisco mid-season and has been the focal point on offense for one of the best teams in the league. Barkley ranks fourth in the league in rushing yards and has been a focal point for the Giants, a team that has surprised everyone this season en route to the playoffs.
Goff has had a solid season in his own right and had a bit of a career resurgence in his second season with Detroit. The Lions have been better than many expected, but there’s a reason Goff is a bit of a longer shot here. His story isn’t quite as captivating as the top three on this list.
NFL Coach of the Year
A few weeks ago, Nick Sirianni was a -400 favorite to win NFL Coach of the Year. Since then, Jalen Hurts missed two games due to injury and Philadelphia lost both games. Now, Sirianni is no longer the favorite to win the award:
Kyle Shanahan (+150)
Brian Daboll (+250)
Nick Sirianni (+250)
Sean McDermott (12-to-1)
Doug Pederson (12-to-1)
The tricky part about handicapping the coach of the year award in any sport is that it seems like there’s no set criteria from year-to-year. Some years, it’s the coach of the best team. Other years, it’s the coach of the most surprising or most improved team. At times, better coaching performances are overlooked for better narratives. All five coaches listed above have strong cases, and it is impossible to know what voters will value.
Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers have not missed a beat despite the fact that they are down to their third-string quarterback who was the last player selected in the most recent draft. That’s a testament to the foundation and system that Shanahan has installed. Shanahan is the current betting favorite to win the award as his team is likely to enter the playoffs on a ten game winning streak.
You can argue that nobody has done more with less than Brian Daboll. The Giants were an absolute mess for half a decade before he got this job and most of the football world, myself included, thought that Daniel Jones was entering his final season as an NFL starting quarterback. Instead, Jones has had a very solid season despite having no big-name pass catching weapons and the Giants are going to the playoffs.
If the season was three weeks shorter, Sirianni would probably have this award in the bag. However, his Eagles have gone 0-for-2 on chances to clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC without Hurts. What was just a one-loss team is now a three-loss team, which is still an incredible accomplishment but a little less eye-popping.
Doug Pederson’s Jacksonville Jaguars are favored to win the AFC South after a three-win season in 2021. Trevor Lawrence has taken significant strides under the tutelage of Pederson. In most years, Pederson would be a strong candidate, but he’s a bit more of a long shot this year due to the performances of the coaches above him.
Sean McDermott was a viable candidate to win this award before this past week as his Buffalo Bills had a good chance of securing the No. 1 seed in the AFC. On top of that, in the face of unprecedented circumstances with the Damar Hamlin situation, McDermott exemplified what it means to be a leader this past week.
There’s still a week to go and the narrative on these coaches can certainly change based on what happens on the field in Week 18. On top of that, it’s not an award based on stats but more based on narratives and expectations. That makes it one of the toughest awards to handicap.