The conclusion of another fantastic NFL season is coming to a head. Still, plenty is left to be decided regarding both the postseason and the end-of-the-year 2022 NFL awards. Five playoff spots are up for grabs as the league begins Week 17 on Thursday night with the Dallas Cowboys at the Tennessee Titans.
With the Chargers clinching one of the AFC Wild Card spots on Monday night, there are just two playoff spots open in the AFC. Technically speaking, there is just one spot as either the Jaguars or Titans will earn the other spot as the champions of the South division.
Miami (8-7) sits in the final playoff spot and controls its destiny as they own a one-game lead with upcoming games against the Patriots and Jets – the teams immediately behind them in the Conference standings. The Steelers and Raiders are still alive, but they are long shots.
The NFC race is more wide-open. First, the South division is up for grabs, with the Buccaneers owning a lead over the Panthers and Saints. Not only will a Bucs victory over the Panthers on Sunday clinch the division for them, but it will also eliminate the Panthers from postseason contention.
The Giants and Commanders are holding the sixth and seventh spots, respectfully. The Giants can clinch a berth with a victory over the Colts this weekend. The Seahawks, Lions, Packers, and Saints join the Panthers as the teams that are still alive for a playoff spot.
Like the playoff race, several postseason awards are up for grabs, though there are some overwhelming favorites. The following is a look at my best bets for the 2022 player awards.
The Most Valuable Player award is a four-player to be a four-player race. The battle for the award is very intriguing though it loses some of its luster if Jalen Hurts (shoulder) cannot play for a second straight week.
Patrick Mahomes is the favorite at (-500) as he has the Chiefs in position to earn the best record in the AFC, despite Travis Kelce being his only big-time weapon, and is having his best season since winning the award in 2018. He leads the league in passing yards, touchdown passes, and QBR while adding four touchdowns and 321 yards with his legs.
Hurts (+1000) would probably be Mahomes’ biggest competition if he didn’t get hurt in Week 15. While he has been better as a passer this year, his biggest asset remains his legs. If Hurts returns this week and “balls out,” there is still a chance he will be a major player in the award.
Allen (+800) has a slight chance of overtaking Mahomes for the award if the Bills defeat the Bengals this week. Allen has carried the Buffalo’s offense all season and has played better during the team’s six-game win streak. His biggest weakness is decision-making.
Burrow (+750) has played exceptionally well, mainly down the stretch though he does have more weapons than Mahomes and Allen at his disposal. He could finish second to Mahomes by leading the Bengals to a victory against the Bills. During the Bengals’ seven-game winning streak, Burrow has thrown for 300 yards four times and totaled 24 touchdown passes, along with seven interceptions.
Best Bet: There are two options, either throw some money on Allen – may want to wait until after the Bengals game – or use Mahomes in a parlay.
2022 Offensive Player of the Year
This award appears to be Justin Jefferson’’s to lose. Jefferson (-800) is having a monster year and is the top player on a Vikings’ team that won the NFC North for the first time since 2017 and owned the second-best record in the conference. He has made highlight after highlight plays throughout the season, which is why Minnesota ranks 7th in the NFL in scoring and 6th in passing.
Jefferson leads the league with 123 receptions and 1,736 yards while having a catch rate of 70.9%. The 2022 NFC November Player of the Month has eight touchdown receptions, six double-digit catch games, and reached 100 yards receiving 10 times.
While Jefferson will win the award, it is not quite a slam dunk. Mahomes, Allen, Hurts, and Burrow are also worthy candidates.
Best Bet: Parlay Jefferson with Mahomes (MVP).
2022 Defensive Player of the Year
49ers Nick Bosa -(1200) is the hands-down favorite for this award. The 25-year-old end is the NFL’s premier pass rusher and can disrupt an offense single handily. He leads the league in sacks (17.5) and quarterback hits (42). Bosa is on pace for a career season and is second in the league in tackles for losses (18).
Best Bet: Bosa in a parlay.
2022 Offensive Rookie of the Year
Offensive rookie of the year is one of the most competitive. The leading candidates are Garrett Wilson, Kenneth Walker III, Christian Watson, Brock Purdy, Brian Robinson Jr., and Chris Olave.
Willson (-200) has been the Jets’ best pass catcher and is having a fantastic season despite erratic quarterback play. The four-time Pepsi Rookie of the Year has 71 receptions for 917 yards and four touchdowns. He has six games of six or more receptions.
Walker III (+450) has been inconsistent and only has appeared in 13 games for the Seahawks. He does have nine touchdowns and three 100-yard rushing outings. Walker, who averages a solid 4.6 yards per carry, also has 25 receptions for 146 yards.
Purdy (+700) has done an excellent job in an emergency for the 49ers, as injuries to Jimmy Garoppola and Trey Lance are only the reason he is on the field. The Niners are 4-0 in his starts, and he has eight touchdowns and two interceptions.
Watson (+900) has come on strong of late for the Packers. His numbers don’t match up with the others on the list, as he has 35 receptions for 496 yards and seven scores while adding two touchdowns on the ground.
Olave (+3000) has become the Saints’ top receiving threat. He has 63 receptions for 940 yards and three touchdowns. Drops have been a problem, but his 63% catch rate is better than Wilson, and he has six games of five or more receptions.
I expect this award to come down to Olave and Wilson. I like Olave here, but Wilson will likely win.
Best Bet: Wilson (-200)
2022 Defensive Rookie of the Year
Jets’ cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, the only rookie Pro Bowl starter is the huge favorite here at -1200. Gardner leads the league with 16 passes defended.
Gardner also has recorded 65 tackles and two interceptions. Quarterbacks only complete 55.4% of their passes against him, and he has only allowed one touchdown. Sauce is also limiting quarterbacks to a rating of 63.9.
Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchins (+800) is also a strong candidate with seven sacks. But Gardner’s biggest competitor for the award appears to be Seahawks’ cornerback Tariq Woolen (+1400), who also was a Pro Bowl selection.
Woolen tops the NFL with six picks, including a pick-six against the Lions. He has six pass dense and is holding opposing receivers to a 52.9% reception percentage. Woolen also has 53 tackles and two fumble recoveries.
This is a toss-up. Woolen has the better numbers, but Gardner has the better reputation. There is no value in taking Gardner, and plenty with Woolen.
Pick: Woolen +1400
2022 Comeback Player of the Year
Comeback Player of the Year provides the best betting opportunity for handicappers. Saquon Barkley, Geno Smith, Christian McCaffery, and Derrick Henry (+8000) are all terrific contenders.
Barkley (+175) has the Giants in a position to earn their first playoff berth since 2007. Barkley, limited to 13 games last season, has been the G-Men’s best player this season. He is on pace to have a career year on the ground.
Smith (+175), a full-time starter for the first time since 2014, has put together his best season of his career. The first-time Pro Bowler will likely top 4,000 passing yards while completing 70% of his passes. He has an excellent 3-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio (27/9).
McCaffery (+275) is playing his first full season in three years. He has been terrific since coming to the 49ers from the Panthers – San Francisco is 8-1 with him in the lineup. McCaffery, who is just 27 yards short of reaching the 1,000 yards mark, has totaled over 1,600 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns.
Pick: Smith (+175)
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