American Football

NFL Honours 2021: Who’s in line to win individual awards

By Stuart Dick

READ MORE: Early NFL 2021 awards predictions

Published: 16:00, 28 December 2021

As we approach the closing stages of the 2021 season, the list of contenders for the end of season individual awards narrows substantially.

There have been some exceptional performers during the campaign, helping their teams stake a claim for play-off contention – we profile them here:

18+ only. New customers only. Min deposit requirement. Free Bets are paid as Bet Credits and are available for use upon settlement of bets to value of qualifying deposit. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply.

18+ only. Place 5 x €10 bets to get a €20 free bet . Repeat 5 times to get €100 in free bets. New customer offer. Place 5 x €10 or more bets to receive €20 in free bets. Repeat up to 5 times to receive maximum €100 bonus. Min odds 1/2 (1.5). Exchange bets excluded. Payment restrictions apply. T&Cs apply. BeGambleAware.

18+ only. New customers using Promo code H30 only, Min £10/€10 stake, min odds 1/2, free bets paid as 2 x £15/€15, free bets credited after settlement of first qualifying bet, free bets will expire 30 days after the qualifying bet is placed, payment method/player/country restrictions apply. Full terms apply. BeGambleAware.

Most Valuable Player (MVP)

Tom Brady (Tampa Bay Buccaneers; +700, or 7/1)

  • 11-4 Record (#3 NFC seed)
  • 4,580 passing yards (#1 in NFL)
  • 37 touchdowns (#1 in NFL)
  • 100.2 passer rating (#6 in NFL)
  • 65.6 quarterback rating (#2 in NFL)

Despite the dominance of Tom Brady over the past two decades, the seven-times Super Bowl Champion has won the NFL MVP award on just three occasions – a fourth victory could be a few short weeks away.

The defending Super Bowl champions are once again set for a post-season run. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold a 10-4 record, top the NFC South and still have a shot at the #1 seed in the conference.

The 44-year-old Brady continues to live up to his GOAT (Greatest of All-Time) moniker as he leads the NFL in passing yardage and passing touchdowns. He has also thrown the most passes (602) and the most completions (404) this season.

A frustrating 9-0 defeat by the New Orleans in Week 15 may dampen the talk of a fourth MVP crown, but the GOAT has a game against the struggling Carolina Panthers – and one against the lowly New York Jets – remaining on the schedule. He could make a late run for the award.

Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers; -162.50, or 8/13)

  • 12-3 Record (#1 seed)
  • 3,698 passing yards (#9 in NFL)
  • 33 touchdowns (Jt-#4 in NFL)
  • 110.8 passer rating (#1 in NFL)
  • 67.9 quarterback rating (#1 in NFL)
  • Three rushing touchdowns

The reigning NFL MVP – who is in the hunt to secure the award for a fourth time – is once again in the running for this award despite a turbulent offseason where he made it clear he wants to leave Green Bay and then a mid-season COVID-19 scandal.

Rodgers has the Green Bay Packers at the top of the NFC standings with an 12-3 record. The three defeats were an uncharacteristic 38-3 defeat by New Orleans in Week 1, a closely-contested 13-7 loss to the AFC leading Kansas City Chiefs with Jordan Love at quarterback and a 34-31 defeat to the Minnesota Vikings. That final loss came despite a 385-yard, four touchdown performance from Rodgers.

The Green Bay signal caller leads the league in quarterback rating (110.6) and has thrown the least number of interceptions of all starters (4).

Who would have thought at the start of the 2021 season that the MVP race would be headed by a 44-year-old Tom Brady and a 38-year-old Rodgers – well everyone who watches really.

However, the pair have been joined by a non-quarterback this season…

Jonathan Taylor (Indianapolis Colts; +750, or 15/2)

  • 1,626 rushing yards (#1 in NFL)
  • 17 rushing touchdowns (#1 in NFL)
  • 12 20+ yard runs (#1 in NFL)
  • Five 40+ yard runs (#1 in NFL)
  • Longest run in NFL this season (83 yards)

Only three non-quarterbacks have won the prestigious MVP award since 2001 – Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson, Seattle legend Shaun Alexander and Canton-bound Adrian Peterson – and all three are running backs.

Indianapolis RB Jonathan Taylor has been utterly dominant this season and has been a huge part of the AFC South side’s success since a 1-4 start to the season. He has nine 100-yard rushing games this season, four multi-TD games and has helped the Colts recover to an 9-6 record.

When Taylor performs to a high level, the Colts win. This is evidenced by his 6.0 yards-per-carry average and 14 touchdowns in the team’s nine wins this season, compared to 4.2 YPC and three touchdowns in the Colts six defeats.

Taylor leads the NFL in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, big plays and has the longest run of any player this season. He is also second in yards per game behind Derrick Henry, yards per carry behind Tony Pollard and has 97 rushes for a first down – 39 more than any other back.

Best of the Rest

Other likely contenders include the quarterbacks of contending teams. Patrick Mahomes has the Kansas City Chiefs on an eight-game winning streak. NFC West QBs Kyler Murray and Matt Stafford also have outside shots at taking the award, as does Buffalo’s Josh Allen.


NFL sign-up betting offers (18+ only):


Offensive Player of the Year

Jonathan Taylor (Indianapolis Colts; -110, or 10/11)

  • 1,626 rushing yards (#1 in NFL)
  • 17 rushing touchdowns (#1 in NFL)
  • 12 20+ yard runs (#1 in NFL)
  • Five 40+ yard runs (#1 in NFL)
  • Longest run in NFL this season (83 yards)

The Offensive Player of the Year award is likely down to a two horse-race between the NFL’s leading rusher and NFL’s leading receiver – both lead numerous statistical categories in their relative departments, and by some distance.

We’ve discussed Taylor at length already in the MVP stakes – but with the statistical prowess he has showcased in the run game, the OPOTY award could be his if he fails to emulate Alexander, Tomlinson and Peterson in becoming an MVP-winning running back.

Cooper Kupp (Los Angeles Rams; -120, or 5/6)

  • 132 receptions (#1 in NFL)
  • 14 receiving touchdowns (#1 in NFL)
  • 1,734 receiving yards (#1 in NFL)
  • 25 20+ yard receptions (#1 in NFL)
  • Eight 40+ yard receptions (#1 in NFL)

80 receptions for a first down (#1 in NFL) In the battle for the Offensive Player of the Year, it is a simple equation – Jonathan Taylor versus Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Kupp, like Taylor, has dominated in 2021.

Kupp has been Matt Stafford’s go-to-guy during the 2021 season, helping the NFC West side to a 10-4 record, joint top of the division with the Arizona Cardinals – the Cards currently hold the division tiebreaker with a 4-1 record compared to the 3-2 held by the Rams.

Kupp has enjoyed nine 9+ receptions games this season in addition to ten 100-yard games and five multi-TD games. Like Taylor, when the Rams win, Kupp is key to their success. In 11 wins the Rams WR has caught 14 touchdowns, in their four defeats he has zero touchdown receptions.

Kupp leads the NFL in receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, big plays, first-down receptions and leads the league in receiving targets. In any other campaign, Kupp would be a certainty for this award but right now, it’s a tossup.

Best of the Rest

This award is pretty much a two-way fight at this stage – it would take an incredible three-game run for any player to put themselves in contention. If Tom Brady doesn’t win the MVP award, he has the statistical numbers to be considered.

Defensive Player of the Year

T.J. Watt (Pittsburgh Steelers; +200, or 2/1)

  • 17.5 Sacks (#1 in NFL)
  • 54 tackles
  • 17 tackles for a loss (Jt-#3 in NFL)

Pittsburgh Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt currently leads the NFL in sacks despite missing two games this season through injury and COVID-19. He is on course to retain the sack leader title he earned in 2020.

The former Wisconsin Badger has enjoyed five multi-sack games this season against Buffalo, Green Bay, Seattle, Chicago and Baltimore. His importance to the Pittsburgh defense is evident in the statistical breakdown – in four losses he has three sacks while in seven victories he has 12.5.

Watt will be eager to emulate his brother J.J. in earning the Defensive Player of the Year award – the former Houston Texan won the award in 2012, 2014 and 2015. T.J. went close a year ago but was pipped to the post by Aaron Donald.

With Pittsburgh on the edge of play-off contention, a strong final few weeks of the season may be needed for Watt to overcome a play-off bound Micah Parsons for the top award.

Micah Parsons (Dallas Cowboys; +250, or 5/2)

  • 13 Sacks (#6 in NFL)
  • 79 tackles
  • 18 tackles for a loss (#2 in NFL)

The outstanding Dallas Cowboys rookie Micah Parsons has been a revelation – helping the team’s defensive unit improve from historically bad in 2020 to one which is full of promise.

Parsons is an all-round talent, capable of rushing the passer, playing the run and covering opposing tight ends and running backs in coverage. As an inside linebacker, he ranks sixth in sacks (13) and is just 1.5 sacks shy of the rookie record held by Jevon Kearse – who solely rushed the passer.

The former Penn State man is also joint second in the NFL when it comes to tackles for a loss. Parsons’ performances are hug reason why the Dallas defense has jumped from the 28th scoring defense to the 7th in just one offseason.

Parsons has the added bonus of playing for ‘Americas Team’ which undoubtedly earns the linebacker more media attention, which in turn could lead to Defensive Player of the Year votes.

Best of the Rest

Myles Garrett, the Cleveland Browns pass rusher, was certainly in contention at the midway point of the season, but a tally of just three sacks in his last six games means he’s now an outside shot for the award.

Dallas cornerback Trevon Diggs may also receive some consideration – the former Alabama defensive back has 11 interceptions for the season – breaking the Cowboys franchise record. San Francisco’s Nick Bosa has 15.0 sacks and leads the league with 19 tackles for a loss.

Rookie of the Year

Mac Jones (New England Patriots; -450, or 2/9)

  • 9-6 Record (#2 seed)
  • 3,313 passing yards (#15 in NFL, #1 Rookies)
  • 18 touchdowns (Jt-#17 in NFL, #1 Rookies)

A strong second half to the season, for both Mac Jones and the New England Patriots, has allowed the former Alabama quarterback to take command of the Offensive Rookie of the Year race from Ja’Marr Chase, who has been unable to maintain his terrific early-season form.

Jones has guided the New England Patriots offense to a 9-6 record and has the Patriots in contention in a strong AFC East which includes the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins – both hold .500 or better records.

Perhaps the most impressive stat for Jones is his record away from Foxboro – 6-1 on the road including victories at play-off contending teams including the aforementioned Bills and the Los Angeles Chargers.

With a game against #1 pick contending Jacksonville Jaguars, and an in-division contest against the Miami Dolphins remaining on the schedule, Jones can build on his already strong OROTY resumé. He ranks first amongst rookie quarterbacks for passing yardage and touchdowns and that is despite being the fifth quarterback selected in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Ja’Marr Chase (Cincinnati Bengals; +350, or 7/2)

  • 68 receptions (Jt-#27, #2 Rookies)
  • 1,163 receiving yards (#7 in NFL, #1 Rookies)
  • 10 touchdowns (Jt-#3 in NFL, #1 Rookies)
  • Six 40+ yard plays (Jt-#5, #1 Rookies)

Jones’ closest contender for the award remains Cincinnati’s first-round pick Ja’Marr Chase, who enjoyed a sensational start to his rookie campaign.

The early OROTY race leader opened the season with three 100-yard games in the opening seven – including a phenomenal eight-reception, 201-yard day against the Baltimore Ravens.

Unfortunately for Chase, NFL defenses have altered their strategies to limit the big-play capabilities of the former LSU wide receiver. In the past eight games Chase has topped 50 yards just three times and grabbed just five touchdowns.

It’s still an exceptional season, but Mac Jones has likely jumped him for the award in the second half of the season.

Micah Parsons (Dallas Cowboys; -25000, or 1/250)

  • 12 Sacks (#7 in NFL, #1 Rookie)
  • 76 tackles (#66 in NFL, #2 Rookie)
  • 17 tackles for a loss (Jt-#2 in NFL, #1 Rookie)

If Jones is considered the favourite for the offensive rookie honour, Dallas Cowboys’ linebacker Micah Parsons has the award in his trophy cabinet already. The Penn State rookie has been a class above the rest of the field in 2021.

We’ve already run through the rookie’s incredible campaign in depth. Parsons is certainly a contender to become the first player – and only the second rookie all-time – since Lawrence Taylor (1981) to win the Defensive Player of the Year award as a rookie.

In the meantime, the Defensive Rookie of the Year award would be an acceptable consolation prize.

Best of the Rest

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle leads rookie receivers in receptions (86) and has been a huge part of the AFC East outfits rise into wildcard contention – but his chances are scarce at best at 100/1.

On the defensive side of the ball there are no contenders and Parsons will rightly take home the award.

Coach of the Year

Matt LeFleur (Green Bay Packers; +137.50, or 11/8)

  • 9-6 record (#4 Seed)
  • #12 Total Offense – #7 Scoring Offense – #8 Passing Offense – #22 Rushing Offense
  • #16 Total Defense – #12 Scoring Defense – #29 Passing Defense – #4 Rushing Defense

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor has helped turn the Ohio-based outfit into a genuine play-off contender. Taylor held a 6-25-1 record during his opening two seasons with the Bengals and was potentially on the hot seat heading into the 2021 campaign.

A 9-6 record in the fiercely competitive AFC North has the Bengals at the top of the division. Cincinnati now hosts the #9 scoring offense and #11 scoring defense – a nice recipe for success in the NFL.

Taylor is certainly worthy of consideration for an award which rewards improvement as well as excellence. He could follow in the footsteps of fellow AFC North coach Kevin Stefanski of the Cleveland Browns, who won the award in 2020.

Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs; +5000, or 50/1)

  • 11-4 record (#1 AFC Seed)
  • #3 Total Offense – #4 Scoring Offense – #2 Passing Offense – #17 Rushing Offense
  • #21 Total Defense – #6 Scoring Defense – #25 Passing Defense – #20 Rushing Defense

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid once again has his team in play-off contention. Reid now has seven successive 10-win seasons and has recorded his ninth consecutive winning season as the head coach of the Chiefs.

Despite this, Reid has still won the NFL Coach of the Year award on just one occasion – back in 2002 with the Philadelphia Eagles. With the Chiefs in pole position for a bye in the AFC play-off race, Reid deserves another individual honour in his trophy cabinet.

The impressive thing about the Chiefs’ 2021 campaign has been the remarkable in-season adjustments made on the defensive side of the ball. During a six-game mid-season span Kansas City conceded just 68 points. Reid will definitely be in the conversation for Coach of the Year.

Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals; +750, or 15/2)

  • 9-6 record (#3 AFC Seed)
  • #12 Total Offense – #7 Scoring Offense – #8 Passing Offense – #22 Rushing Offense
  • #16 Total Defense – #12 Scoring Defense – #29 Passing Defense – #4 Rushing Defense

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor has helped turn the Ohio-based outfit into a genuine play-off contender. Taylor held a 6-25-1 record during his opening two seasons with the Bengals and was potentially on the hot seat heading into the 2021 campaign.

A 9-6 record in the fiercely competitive AFC North has the Bengals at the top of the division. Cincinnati now hosts the #9 scoring offense and #11 scoring defense – a nice recipe for success in the NFL.

Taylor is certainly worthy of consideration for an award which rewards improvement as well as excellence. He could follow in the footsteps of fellow AFC North coach Kevin Stefanski of the Cleveland Browns, who won the award in 2020.

Best of the Rest

Dallas Cowboys Mike McCarthy is likely to garner some interest for the award with ‘America’s Team’ at 11-4. Fellow NFC East coach Nick Sirianni is an outsider, after turning Philadelphia into a rushing powerhouse following a poor start to the season for the rookie coach.

Kliff Kingsbury had the Arizona Cardinals in prime position before a recent 2-4 run which may have scuppered his chances, 2017 winner Sean McVay also holds out hope. In the AFC, Bill Belichick is favourite with some bookies, while Frank Reich and Mike Vrabel could be in contention.


READ MORE:

✕︎

Sign up to the Best Football Offers

A valid email is required.

Invalid e-mail.

Yes I am over 18.
Yes, I would like to receive email updates on exciting offers from squawka.com. For more info on how we and our partners process your data, see Privacy and Cookie Policies.
You need to confirm that you are over 18 and that you want to receive updates.

*By subscribing you are confirming that you are over 18 years of age.

*All emails include an unsubscribe link, where you can opt out any time. *Please see our privacy and cookies policy..

x

Newsletter error