By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
As we sit mere weeks away from the NFL Season (and NFL pools) it’s now time to do the research and hand out some NFL preseason awards.
We all know that football fans’ focus narrows significantly once the season gets humming. By Week 4, we’ll all be collectively lost in the sauce of the Thursday-Sunday-Monday routine that shapes the fall. So, before our brains freeze into football mode, let’s zoom out and look at what gets given out at the end of this whole journey – awards.
Over the years, I would contend that the individual awards given out in the NFL have lost a bit of their grandeur, but what can’t be argued is they present a million more opportunities to hit a big payday. Future bets on individual awards take a mix of preparation, patience, and more patience… but it can pay more significantly than any winning Sunday you put together all season.
Now is the time to find those MVP sleepers, hop on a rookie’s bandwagon, or back your favorite horse from now till the end with the hope of cashing a winner once the dust settles this winter. It’s a method of wagering with low liquidity, but very high potential.
With that, let’s get to the awards, their favorites, and who you should keep on your radar this NFL season:
League MVP (2021 Winner = Aaron Rodgers)
Bills QB Josh Allen is the slight favorite (+650) in a category dominated by QBs on top-tier teams – shocking. Your pick for who wins the AFC probably tells me if you Allen or Mahomes (+750), or you can just be dull and bet on Aaron Rodgers (+850) to dominate the regular season and quickly lose in the playoffs again. My sleeper pick is the versatile 2018 MVP Lamar Jackson at 22-1. Super Sleeper – Jonathan Taylor at 50-1 to run for 1500+ yards and carry Indy to a division title.
Offensive POY (2021 Winner = Cooper Kupp)
Could Cooper Kupp go back-to-back with this award after his Super Bowl MVP performance? It would be shocking if he did, so look elsewhere at other receivers. Davante Adams (+1400) in a new setting with Derek Carr could be electric. The league leans towards keeping this award out of QB’s hands in recent years, so Justin Jefferson (+1600) or Derrick Henry in a bounce-back year at +1200 could also be worth a look and a thought to win it.
Defensive POY (2021 Winner = T.J. Watt)
Take your pick of enforcer linemen in this category – the 2021 champ Watt (+700) and Myles Garrett or Aaron Donald, both listed at +650. I think the Bosa twins cancel each other out a bit, so the guy I’m zeroing in on is Micah Parsons at +900. He makes enough “WOW” highlight plays to keep him in the conversation, and if the Cowboys D is rollin, Parsons will be pancaking. Rashan Gary is a deep sleeper at 28-1 odds that could be worth a flyer as well!
Offensive ROY (2021 Winner = Ja’Marr Chase)
It’s a pass for me on the favorite Kenny Pickett (+700), so from there, I’m looking at an RB that will get lots of touches in a weak defensive division. I’m hinting at Breece Hall of the New York Jets. The Jets still stink, but he’ll get lots of reps against some mediocre run defenses, so Hall is my play at +800. If you’re high on the Jets, you could also look at WR Garrett Wilson (+1100) to win offensive ROY.
Defensive ROY (2021 Winner = Micah Parsons)
Who will fly around the field making stand-out plays like 2021 Champ Micah Parsons did? For that specific type of player, look no further than former Georgia LB Nakobe Dean (+2000) to surprise this season. More traditionally, a powerhouse lineman like Kayvon Thibodaux (+550) or Quay Walker in Green Bay (+900) could be more sound plays at the top of the board.
Comeback POY (2021 Winner = Joe Burrow)
This is a two-horse race between the favorite Derrick Henry at +350 and Christian McCaffrey at +700. Both RBs had devastating injuries last season and are poised to bring back their gaudy fantasy numbers and stay healthy while doing it. I tend to lean Henry only because Carolina has more question marks than Tennessee. For a sleeper thought, the Rams offense got even richer when they added Allen Robinson, and at 22-1 odds, he could have a big production year in L.A.
Coach of the Year (2021 Winner = Mike Vrabel)
If Brian Daboll gets the Giants to any relevancy (say 7 or 8 wins), he immediately puts himself as the frontrunner to win Coach of the year (+1600). This is the most wide-open betting field for any award, so it’s an opportunity to sprinkle on a few coaches and hope they break through. Josh McDaniels (+1800), Todd Bowles (+2800), and even loveable Lions coach Dan Campbell (+1600) all have an opportunity to be a part of this conversation with an excellent start to their 2022 campaigns.