Author: Krissy Birdsall
The 11th edition of the NFL Honors takes place on Thursday, February 10th at 8 p.m CT on ABC. The awards show will highlight some of the best players from this year’s NFL season, as well as introduce the newest Pro Football Hall of Fame class. Below I preview the major individual awards and the most likely contenders that could win.
Most Valuable Player
While there are many players who have had a substantial impact on their teams, I think this award will be between Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.
The recently retired Tom Brady, considered the greatest quarterback of all time, is the most likely candidate here to win. At 44 years old, he led the league with 5,316 passing yards and 43 touchdown passes. He led his team to a divisional title and a win in the playoffs before ending his career against the Super Bowl contending Los Angeles Rams.
Tom Brady will be challenged by Aaron Rodgers, the longtime Green Bay Packers quarterback. Leading the league in quarterback rating with 111.9 QBR, the California native also led his team to a divisional title and a 1st place finish in the regular season in the NFC. He also finished the season with 37 touchdown passes and only four interceptions, the fewest in the league.
While I think both quarterbacks played remarkably well during the regular season, I am giving Tom Brady’s success the nod over Aaron Rodgers for MVP.
Offensive Player of the Year
The Offensive Player of the Year watch list contains a bit more players vying for the title, led by Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Kupp led the league with 145 receptions, 1,947 yards (more than 300 yards more than the next highest receiver) and 16 touchdown receptions. His ability to find open space and widen the field has helped bring his team into this year’s Super Bowl and made him the clear-cut favorite to win this award.
His main competition comes from former UW-Madison running back and current Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor. In only his second season in the NFL, he led the league in rushing yards (1,811 yards) and touchdowns (18). He has become a necessary power for this Colt’s offense, and his dominance kept this team in the mix throughout the regular season.
Look out for players such as Deebo Samuel (San Francisco 49ers running back) and Ja’Marr Chase (Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver) to receive a few votes, but I think Cooper Kupp will lead this vote and win Offensive Player of the Year.
Defensive Player of the Year
Pittsburgh Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt is the clear-cut favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year. The former Wisconsin outside linebacker tied Michael Strahan’s NFL single-season sack record at 22.5 sacks, despite missing two games during the regular season. Watt put up another great season on defense and has been a menace to other teams’ offenses during the entire regular season. Expect him to finally take home this award for the first time.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
In his inaugural season in the NFL, Ja’Marr Chase instantly reconnected with his former college quarterback Joe Burrow and has completely distanced himself from all other offensive rookies. He recorded 1,455 yards and 13 touchdown catches during the regular season, averaging about 18 yards per catch. The Cincinnati Bengal will be representing his team later this week in Los Angeles, but expect him to be the recipient of Offensive Rookie of the Year Thursday.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons has been a disruption all season on defense. He was even being considered a contender for defensive player of the year at one point during the season. In his inaugural season, he played as well as some of the most seasoned defensive veterans in the league. The former first-rounder recorded 13 sacks on the year, as well as 64 solo tackles and three forced fumbles. Whether he was lining up on the edge or as a linebacker, Parsons emerged as one of the league’s brightest stars and should win this award.
Comeback Player of the Year
The Comeback Player of the Year award is basically a two-man race between Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
Joe Burrow suffered a season-ending ACL and MCL tear in week ten of the 2020-2021 season. After spending a year off rehabbing in Los Angeles, the quarterback came back and now is leading his team to its first Super Bowl in 34 years. During the regular season, the Cincinnati quarterback ranked 6th in the league in passing yards (4,611 yards) and 8th in touchdown passes (34). Coming back from a season-ending injury and taking his team to the Super Bowl only a year later, expect Burrow to be the favorite to win Comeback Player of the Year.
Burrow’s main competitor will be Dak Prescott. Prescott suffered a gruesome lower leg injury only five games into the 2020-2021 season and missed the remainder of the year rehabbing his injury to come back fully healthy for the 2021-2022 season. He recorded 4,449 passing yards on the season, 7th best in the league, and tied for 4th best in touchdowns with 37 passes.
While Prescott put up numbers similar to Burrow, I think that the team success Burrow has led will give him an edge.