Welcome to NFL Awards Watch, my weekly column that will take 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.
Week 9 featured solid play from the NFL’s top rookies, but we begin with the MVP moment on Sunday night. Let’s get to it:
NFL Awards Watch: Week 9
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
QB PATRICK MAHOMES, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs trailed the Titans 17-9 in the fourth quarter on Sunday Night Football. Then Mahomes, who had been slowed by Mike Vrabel and Shane Bowen’s defense for the majority of the game, played like an MVP. He scrambled for 18 yards on 3rd and 17, then followed with a touchdown run and a two-point conversion. Even on a night where Mahomes nearly set the single-game record for passing attempts (68) and threw for 446 yards, the Titans contained the highest scoring offense in the NFL for the vast majority of the game. Mahomes won the game anyway; that’s what an MVP does.
Two More To Consider:
- QB Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles. You’ll read and hear others covering the league who will advocate for Hurts as Offensive Player of the Year. That’s too easy of an answer for Week 9. But follow me here: Hurts can take a significant leap forward in the MVP race over the next couple of weeks. There’s Josh Allen’s elbow issue, but also the Eagles schedule. Monday night against the Commanders in Philadelphia, then Week 11 against the Colts in Indy, followed by the Packers back in Philly over Thanksgiving weekend. Hurts is already playing at a high level, but the Eagles could be 10-0 as they begin December. It’s already been an unpredictable NFL season. Hurts winning MVP isn’t far fetched.
- QB Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills. The Jets were able to pressure Allen with four pass rushers, then play great coverage on the back end. That formula produced five sacks on 34 pass attempts, and New York blitzed only two times. It takes a lot to hold down this Bills offense, which starts with containing Allen. Now he might be slowed with an elbow injury. Here’s hoping it’s not a long-term issue, but if it is, buckle up for a wide open AFC race and MVP battle.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
WR TYREEK HILL, Miami Dolphins
Another week. More Tyreek. “I’m like a kid in a candy store,” Hill said Sunday, via the Miami Herald. His league-leading 1,104 receiving yards has him on pace for 2,085, which would make him the first player to reach 2,000 in a single season. Calvin Johnson has the all-time receiving record for yards in a season with 1,964 in 2012. The Pro Football Hall of Famer had 1,083 yards after nine games, 21 fewer yards than Cheetah, but I use it as a marker because Megatron set the NFL record in just 16 games played. Hill is on Johnson’s pace now, but also has an extra game to tack on yards. More importantly, Hill’s stats produce points for the Dolphins offense as they capitalize on his explosive plays. He’s averaging 122.7 yards per game, and his season total now exceeds these entire individual receiving corps: more than the entire depth charts of the Cowboys, Steelers, Falcons, Giants, Texans, Ravens, Bears and Titans.
Two More To Consider:
- QB Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks. I haven’t listed Smith here because I feel a wide receiver or running back deserves more consideration if MVP is mostly a QB award (and it is). But Geno hasn’t cracked my Top 3 for MVP and it’s time to put some respect on his game. He’ll likely be voted Comeback Player of the Year, but his season has been far better than a first hour award at NFL Honors. What an incredible rebound for his career. On Sunday, Smith opened the second half against the Cardinals with a pick-6, but then took the next possession and led the Seahawks on a long drive to retake the lead. Seattle’s last four wins have all come by at least 10 points, and it’s due in large part to the leadership and poise of the veteran QB who is the best individual story of the 2022 NFL season.
- WR Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings. 7 catches, 115 yards, 1 TD. Be sure to check out his touchdown grab to put the Vikings on the board in Washington.
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
RB KENNETH WALKER III, Seattle Seahawks
Walker has averaged more than 100 yards rushing since Rashad Penny went down with his injury. It’s not just explosive runs for Walker every week. This past Sunday was a great example. He had nine carries for 31 yards in the first half, then rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns on 17 runs to close the game. He now has five straight games with 50-plus rushing yards and at least one rushing touchdown. The last Seahawks running back to accomplish a streak like that was Shaun Alexander.
Two More To Consider:
- WR Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints. Olave had at least 70 yards receiving for the fourth time in his first eight NFL games. He hauled in the first play from scrimmage for a gain of 15 yards Monday night, then for some reason the Saints didn’t come back to him until the end of the half. Andy Dalton – get him the football.
- RB Dameon Pierce, Houston Texans. Pierce is bright optimism for another otherwise dull season in Houston. He carried the ball 27 times for 139 yards against the Eagles, averaging over five yards per carry.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
OLB MICAH PARSONS, Dallas Cowboys
Parsons enjoyed a week off and travels north to face the Packers on Sunday afternoon. There’s a lot to be concerned about in Green Bay. Parsons is at the top of that very long list.
Three More To Consider:
- DE Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers. Bosa has 8.5 sacks and comes off his bye to face the Chargers on Sunday Night Football.
- CB Patrick Surtain II, Denver Broncos. His team allows opponents to pick up wins. Surtain allows virtually nothing when the ball is thrown his way. Former teammate Von Miller recently said on his VonCast that Surtain is going to be the best corner in the game. It’s Year 2, but he might already be. He’s a physical cover-corner who locks down the best receiver every week.
- OLB Matthew Judon, New England Patriots. New England wrecked the Colts offensive front last Sunday with nine sacks. Judon posted three (and had another called back because of roughing the passer on his teammate Daniel Ekuale). Judon now has 11.5 sacks on the season, two more than Bosa and Vikings pass rusher Za’Darius Smith.
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
CB SAUCE GARDNER, New York Jets
Gardner added another interception in the Jets’ 20-17 win over Buffalo. He was in on seven tackles and his pick set up New York with a field goal and a 17-14 lead. Gardner gave up a big play on the first snap from scrimmage, but finished the game defending Gabe Davis as Josh Allen let loose on his 4th and 21 heave down the left sideline. The game ended with Gardner doing snow angels on the stadium turf. Another solid performance from the clear frontrunner in this category.
Two More To Consider:
- CB Tariq Woolen, Seattle Seahawks.
- LB Devin Lloyd, Jacksonville Jaguars.