NFL Awards Watch: Last Week For Players To Make Cases For MVP, Top Rookies And More

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Welcome to NFL Awards Watch, my weekly column that takes a look at the five major awards handed out in the NFL: MVP; Offensive and Defensive Player Of The Year; and Offensive and Defensive Rookie Of The Year.

JONATHAN HUTTON NFL AWARDS WATCH ARCHIVE

Patrick Mahomes is the favorite to win MVP with one week remaining on the NFL regular season schedule, while the rookie awards have tight competition entering Week 18. Let’s get to it:

NFL Awards Watch: Week 17

Patrick Mahomes and Kenneth Walker III. (Getty Images)

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs 

He’s passed for over 5,000 yards this season, becoming just the third quarterback to eclipse the mark for a second time in his career. The other two? Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Mahomes also reached 40 touchdown passes in a season for the second time in his career.

Two More To Consider:

  • QB Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles. Hurts is 11-1 this this season and the Eagles are 0-2 when he hasn’t been available.
  • QB Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

WR JUSTIN JEFFERSON, Minnesota Vikings

He was held to one catch for 15 yards on five targets in Sunday’s loss to Green Bay, but Jefferson continues to hold down the top spot for the league’s top offensive award. He’s been outstanding throughout the season with 124 catches for 1,771 yards and eight touchdowns. 

JUSTIN JEFFERSON REACTS TO BEING SHUT DOWN BY JAIRE ALEXANDER, BEING HIT WITH THE GRIDDY

Two More To Consider:

  • WR Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins. Hill has produced solid numbers throughout the season regardless of who has played quarterback, but he took the fall for a pass that bounced off of him and into the hands of Patriots defensive back Jonathan Jones. He’s failed to top 100 yards receiving in five of his last seven games as the Dolphins offense continues to be in a tailspin.
  • RB Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders. Jacobs is on pace to win the NFL rushing title, outrushing Nick Chubb by 160 yards. He has rushed for 1,608 yards and has a final game against the Chiefs this Saturday night. San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa called Jacobs the best running back he’s faced in the NFL.

OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

RB KENNETH WALKER III, Seattle Seahawks.

K9 has been excellent in Seattle and needs 64 yards and one rushing TD to finish with 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in his debut season. The last three running backs to have those numbers in a rookie season were Jonathan Taylor, Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott. Taylor and Barkley both won this award. Elliott finished second to his quarterback Dak Prescott. Walker has produced these numbers despite not entering the starting lineup until Rashaad Penny was placed on Injured Reserve in mid-October.


Two More To Consider:

  • WR Garrett Wilson, New York Jets. Wilson is four yards short of 1,000 yards in his debut season in the NFL, adding four touchdowns and averaging 14 yards on his 74 receptions. He became the first Jets rookie receiver to reach the 1,000-yard milestone since 2015 with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.
  • QB Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers. Add an overtime victory to Purdy’s rookie resume. He’s done nothing but win since entering the lineup for the 49ers, most recently showing plenty of postseason capabilities while helping San Francisco rally from a 10-point deficit to come back and win over Vegas. Purdy has thrown for multiple touchdowns touchdowns in five straight games. Justin Herbert is the only rookie to pass for more scores consecutively since the NFL merged in 1970.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

DE NICK BOSA, San Francisco 49ers

Here are the players with at least 17 sacks and more than 40 quarterback hits in a single season since 2006: J.J. Watt (2012, 2014, 2015) and Aaron Donald in 2018. Both players won Defensive Player of the Year honors following each of those seasons. Most recently against the Raiders, Bosa delivered a key pressure in overtime to force an interception that set up the game-winning field goal in overtime.

Two More To Consider:

  • OLB Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys. Parsons had an incredible start to the season as game plans focused on him each week. The opponent’s focus his way hasn’t changed, but his production has dropped off. He has 13 sacks this season, but all of them have come in seven games. 
  • OLB Matthew Judon, New England Patriots.

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

CB SAUCE GARDNER, New York Jets

The Jets lost and will miss the playoffs, but Gardner shined in Week 16 with four pass breakups against the Seahawks, with two of the four coming while matched up on D.K. Metcalf. He leads the NFL with 20 passes defensed while being a cornerback several NFL offenses avoid throwing at altogether.

Two More To Consider:

  • CB Tariq Woolen, Seattle Seahawks. Woolen has very comparable stats to Gardner and remains tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions this season.
  • DE Aidan Hutchinson, Detroit Lions. The former Michigan lineman has produced 48 tackles, eight sacks, three interceptions, double-digit quarterback hits and two fumble recoveries this season.

Jonathan Hutton is the host of OutKick 360 and writes weekly about NFL awards. Follow Hutton on Twitter.

Written by Jonathan Hutton

Jonathan Hutton hosts OutKick 360 each weekday afternoon. He spent 16 seasons as the gameday host and sideline reporter for the Tennessee Titans Radio Network and covered the biggest NFL events. Follow @HuttonOutKick on Twitter/Instagram.

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