NFL Awards Watch: Patrick Mahomes Takes MVP Lead, But Justin Jefferson Is Making Late Run Too

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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 takes over MVP race with two games to play, but Justin Jefferson is making his case to become the first wide receiver to win Most Valuable Player. Let’s get to it:

NFL Awards Watch: Week 16

Justin Jefferson and Patrick Mahomes. (Getty Images)

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs 

Even when nothing is available and the defense has the perfect call for what the Chiefs are trying to execute, Mahomes can make magic happen. His third-and-goal touchdown in Saturday’s 24-10 victory over the Seahawks showed off his athleticism as he braced himself with his left hand just long enough to let the football graze the pylon for a big score. 

Two More To Consider:

  • QB Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles. Hurts has 13 rushing touchdowns, one short of the NFL record for a quarterback, a mark set by Cam Newton during his rookie year in 2011. Hurts’ MVP odds took a big hit due to missing time with a sprained shoulder.
  • QB Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

WR JUSTIN JEFFERSON, Minnesota Vikings

There’s a new leader for the most receiving yards by any Viking in a single season. Jefferson passed Randy Moss, who set the previous mark in 2003 with his receiving 1,632 yards. Jefferson now has 1,756 this season, and he’s been unstoppable over the past three games. He’s destroyed opposing defenses with 35 catches and 479 yards for an average of 160 yards per game. He will need to average 122 yards receiving in each of the next two games to become the first 2,000-yard receiver in NFL history. Jefferson needs just 209 yards to pass Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson’s 2012 single-season record of 1,964 receiving yards. He now faces two defenses he’s already torched: Green Bay and Chicago. 

The league’s first 2,000-yard receiver? We also may be looking at our first wide receiver to win MVP. 

Two More To Consider:

  • WR Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins. Hill added 103 yards to a season total that’s now at 1,529 this year. Like Jefferson, Hill remains on pace to pass Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson for the single-season record of 1,964 receiving yards in 2012.
  • WR Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs. The league’s top tight end tallied six catches for 113 yards in the Week 16 victory over Seattle, tying his season high for receptions in a game and his third-highest yardage total on the year. 

OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

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 71 receptions. He’s done this while playing with Zach Wilson, Mike White, Joe Flacco and Chris Streveler.

Two More To Consider:

  • QB Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers. The Niners rookie QB made big plays in the second half of the Week 16 victory over Washington. He’s won his first three career starts and added a fourth victory when he played the majority of the game in his debut performance a month ago. With Saturday’s win over the Commanders, Purdy became only the fourth player in 72 years to pass for multiple touchdowns in his first three career starts. Purdy has thrown for at least two touchdowns in four straight games. 
  • WR Jahan Dotson, Washington Commanders. Dotson leads the Commanders with seven touchdowns this season and has a score in each of his last three straight games. He needs one more touchdown reception to tie the franchise record for the most TDs in a rookie season. Dotson would receive much more consideration for the top rookie award had he not missed four games this season.  

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

DE NICK BOSA, San Francisco 49ers

Bosa’s been the most dominant player on any defense on a weekly basis throughout the 2022 season, and he showed why as the second half played out against the Commanders . Bosa added two more sacks to his season total and made a crucial fourth down stop that led to the Niners putting the game away with another touchdown drive. One of his sacks stripped the ball loose from Taylor Heinicke, a quick change of possession that also led to points from the San Francisco offense. Bosa now has 17.5 sacks this season, three shy of breaking the 49ers franchise record of 19.5 sacks held by Aldon Smith. 

Two More To Consider:

  • OLB Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys. Parsons remains one of the top players in the league regardless of position, but he’s created more discussion as of late from his honest opinions rather than his highlight-reel plays. He’s been outplayed by Bosa in recent weeks. That’s not just from looking at stats. It’s about watching big moments in playoff-defining games over the last four weeks. 
  • OLB Matthew Judon, New England Patriots. Judon trails only Nick Bosa for the NFL lead in sacks with 15.5 this season. 

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

CB SAUCE GARDNER, New York Jets

Tariq Woolen is tied for the league lead with six interceptions, but it’s hard for Gardner to match that number when opposing QBs don’t throw his direction. At all. That’s because he’s one of the best cornerbacks in the league, not just among the rookie corners from this year. The Lions didn’t throw a pass in his direction in Week 15. He has a legitimate shot at being the first cornerback selected to be First-team All-Pro since Ronnie Lott in 1981.  

Two More To Consider:

  • CB Tariq Woolen, Seattle Seahawks. Woolen became Seattle’s first defensive player to make the Pro Bowl since Lofa Tatupu in 2005. The fish round pick has started since Week 1 and is tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions.
  • DE Aidan Hutchinson, Detroit Lions. The former Michigan lineman has produced 34 tackles, eight sacks, two interceptions and double-digit quarterback hits 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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