With 15 weeks of the 2022 NFL season in the books, the race for the league’s top awards is heating up.
Here’s a current look at the five best candidates for each major honor:
Coach of the Year
5. Mike McCarthy, Cowboys
McCarthy’s COY resume took a big hit with the loss to the Jaguars, but he still deserves a lot of credit for helping make Dallas one of the NFL’s most competitive and balanced teams despite battling major injuries throughout the season. The 10-4 Cowboys’ 125 point differential ranks fourth in the league.
4. Dan Campbell, Lions
No award has seen more movement among its candidates than Coach of the Year, and the Lions’ six wins in their last seven games earn Campbell a spot here. Campbell, one of football’s most aggressive coaches on fourth down, still makes some controversial in-game decisions, but he and his coaching staff have found a winning formula that’s given Detroit a legit chance of making the playoffs despite starting the campaign 1-6.
3. Kyle Shanahan, 49ers
Few teams, if any, look as good as the 49ers right now. San Francisco has already clinched the NFC West and won its last seven games, including three with third-string quarterback Brock Purdy. The Niners might have the NFL’s deepest and most balanced roster, but they wouldn’t be this good if it wasn’t for Shanahan and his staff making the necessary adjustments every time adversity is thrown their way.
2. Brian Daboll, Giants
Some may say Daboll shouldn’t be here after the Giants went winless from Weeks 11-14. And that’s fair, but let’s not forget that New York is 8-5-1 after winning a pivotal game versus Washington – good for the No. 6 seed in the NFC. That marks a huge turnaround for a team that hired Daboll after winning just four games last year and with a clear lack of individual talent on both sides of the ball. Daboll has maximized the team’s chances of winning better than any other coach.
1. Nick Sirianni, Eagles
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While the rest of the top five has changed constantly amidst one of the most unpredictable seasons in recent memory, the No. 1 spot is still Sirianni’s to lose. He’s guided the Eagles to a 13-1 record and could lock up the NFC’s No. 1 seed in Week 16. Coaches sometimes struggle to manage stacked rosters surrounded by high expectations, but the Sirianni-led Eagles have lived up to their preseason hype en route to becoming football’s strongest team.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
5. Jack Jones, Patriots
Jones makes the cut despite missing Week 15 due to injury. A key member of New England’s secondary, the fourth-rounder has thrived in the Patriots’ cornerback-friendly system, racking up 30 tackles, six pass breakups, a forced fumble, and two interceptions, including a pick-6 off Aaron Rodgers.
4. Kayvon Thibodeaux, Giants
Thibodeaux enjoyed his best NFL performance on Sunday during the Giants’ biggest game of the season. With 19 pressures over the last four games, no other rookie edge rusher has played better over the last month than the No. 5 overall pick. The Oregon product would have a legit shot at winning DROY if he was fully healthy to start the season.
3. Aidan Hutchinson, Lions
We knew it could take Hutchinson a bit to polish his pass-rush skills and for Detroit to figure out where and how the Michigan product would fit in its system. This year for the Lions was mainly about making sure they drafted the right guy – and Hutchinson has proved them right. He’s on pace to finish the campaign with 29 pressures, eight sacks, and eight tackles for loss. Plus, he’s intercepted two passes. Those numbers would possibly be enough to win DROY in most seasons, but the 2022 class is just too deep.
2. Tariq Woolen, Seahawks
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Ranking Hutchinson over Woolen wouldn’t be wrong, but the Seahawks corner has just been more impressive and consistent. Despite entering the NFL as a fifth-rounder, Woolen leads the league with six interceptions. He’s also amassed 13 pass breakups and a touchdown while allowing a 53.5 passer rating when targeted. His physicality has been a major factor in helping Seattle allow 217.7 passing yards per game after giving up 265.5 in 2021.
1. Ahmad Gardner, Jets
As good as Woolen has been, Gardner is on another level. He might be the best corner in football. Yes, Woolen has more interceptions and a slightly better rating in coverage. But no other rookie has made an impact as big as Gardner, who’s already a cornerstone of one of the league’s most improved defenses. The No. 4 pick, who leads the NFL with 16 pass breakups, played every defensive snap in his last two weeks, yet he was targeted just twice in those games combined. It’s been a perfect marriage of scheme and skill for New York and Gardner.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
5. Dameon Pierce, Texans
Pierce put on a show to start the season but wasn’t able to replicate his performances all year long. The 22-year-old, who’s already been ruled out for the final three games with an injury, didn’t score a touchdown in his last six appearances and averaged three yards per carry in his past four games. With 1,104 scrimmage yards and five total touchdowns, the fourth-round running back had a good 2022 season. It just wasn’t good enough to win OROY.
4. Chris Olave, Saints
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Don’t let New Orleans’ struggles fool you; Olave’s been as good as advertised for the Saints, which drafted the Ohio State stud 11th overall. Olave’s been consistent and become a key weapon for New Orleans, ranking second among rookies in catches (63) and receiving yards (940) while leading the class in yards per game (72.3).
3. Christian Watson, Packers
The lack of touches (34) hurts Watson’s case, but the second-round receiver is still in the race for OROY thanks to his nine touchdowns, including eight in his last five games. He’s one of the main reasons the Packers have performed better lately. If Green Bay increases Watson’s touches, and the pass-catcher somehow continues to score at this rate, it’d be difficult to argue against him.
2. Kenneth Walker, Seahawks
Once considered the favorite for this award, Walker’s been quiet lately, averaging just 31.5 rushing yards and 3.2 yards per carry in his last four appearances. The Michigan State product is still this year’s best rookie running back – and his nine touchdowns are tied with Watson for most among first-year players – but he’ll need a big turnaround in the season’s final weeks to claim OROY.
1. Garrett Wilson, Jets
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After a somewhat slow start to the campaign, Wilson’s been an absolute beast lately. The Ohio State product leads all first-year players with 67 receptions and 966 yards. More importantly, he’s performed at his best when it matters the most, pilling up 348 yards (15.8 per catch) and one touchdown in the fourth quarter. His four total touchdowns this year aren’t very impressive, but they have more to do with New York’s QB struggles than Wilson’s performance.
Defensive Player of the Year
5. Maxx Crosby, Raiders
For the second straight year, Crosby’s been one of football’s premier edge rushers. He ranks second with 24 pressures since Week 12 and now has 62 total pressures, the fifth-best mark in the NFL. Those numbers alone should make him a DPOY candidate, but Crosby has also been stellar against the run, ranking third in run stop win rate and first in tackles for loss (19).
4. Chris Jones, Chiefs
In a year where several interior defensive linemen have emerged as star cornerstones around the NFL, Jones has been the best of the bunch. The 28-year-old, who was a second-team All-Pro in the last two seasons, is arguably having the best season of his career in 2022. PFF’s fourth-best defender, Jones leads all defensive tackles in most categories, including sacks (11) and pass rush win rate.
3. Myles Garrett, Browns
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Nine games with at least one sack, 13.5 total sacks, 65 pressures, and two forced fumbles. That’s how good Garrett – PFF’s top-ranked defender – has been despite missing one game. The 6-8 Browns haven’t really given Garrett the supporting cast he deserves and translated his excellent campaign into wins, but that shouldn’t take anything away from the fact that Garrett might be the sport’s most unstoppable defender.
2. Nick Bosa, 49ers
We all thought Micah Parsons would run away with Defensive Player of the Year honors, but Bosa had other plans. He’s the best player on football’s top-ranked defense. The 25-year-old, who missed one game early this campaign, leads the NFL in sacks (15.5) and QB hits (38). He’s been the league’s most consistent edge rusher, having recorded a sack in all but two appearances.
1. Micah Parsons, Cowboys
This is a two-man race. While the gap between Parsons and Bosa isn’t nearly as big as it was a month ago, the Cowboys star is still football’s top defender. Bosa might be the more consistent pass-rusher right now, but Parsons has made more game-changing plays and had a bigger impact on his team’s wins. In addition to 13 sacks and the second-highest pass rush win rate among edge rushers, Parsons has also racked up six multi-sack games, three forced fumbles, and one defensive touchdown in 2022.
5. Josh Allen, Bills
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Does Allen still have a chance? After struggling in November and early December, the Bills star put on a show in Week 15, reminding us why he was the MVP front-runner in the campaign’s first weeks. It’s hard to imagine Allen winning the award at this point, given how little margin for error MVP candidates have, but his 2022 resume is impressive. He leads the league in big-time throws and ranks in the top five for passing yards and touchdowns. Oh, and the 11-3 Bills currently have the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
4. Justin Jefferson, Vikings
This spot belonged to Tyreek Hill until the Dolphins suffered their third straight loss in Week 15. Jefferson is the best player on an 11-3 Vikings team that just clinched the NFC North for the first time since 2017 after staging the biggest comeback in NFL history. With the team’s defensive issues, Jefferson’s consistency and game-changing plays have been key for Minnesota to go 10-0 in one-score games. The star receiver leads the league with 111 catches and 1,623 yards, and he’ll become the first player ever with 2,000 receiving yards in a season if he averages 126 over the next three games.
3. Joe Burrow, Bengals
There isn’t a lot separating Burrow, Allen, and Jefferson, but the Bengals star gets the edge here due to his fourth-quarter performances. Not only does Burrow rank fourth in passing yards and second in touchdowns, but he’s been football’s best passer in the fourth quarter, posting a 70.25% completion rate with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions in the final frame. He also leads all starting QBs in Expected Points Added (EPA) per dropback in the fourth quarter and has helped the 10-4 Bengals win six straight.
2. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
The MVP award is likely down to Mahomes and Jalen Hurts, and there are a lot of reasons to still consider Mahomes the favorite. He’s the best player in the league, no other quarterback can do what he does, and Hurts is injured. Plus, Mahomes tops all QBs in passing yards (4,496), touchdowns (35), and EPA per play. The Mahomes-led Chiefs have already clinched the AFC West and remain in the mix for the AFC’s No. 1 seed at 11-3.
1. Jalen Hurts, Eagles
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If the season ended today, Hurts should win the MVP. He’s put on a show while quarterbacking a one-loss Eagles team that owns the NFL’s best record. Granted, he threw two interceptions in an ugly win over Chicago, but Mahomes also had three picks two weeks ago. Hurts, who’s thrown for 22 TDs to just five INTs, has also racked up 747 yards and 13 scores on the ground, the second-most in the league. That said, the 24-year-old is battling a shoulder sprain that could sideline him for a pair of games. The injury reportedly isn’t major, but with the Eagles on the brink of clinching the NFC’s No. 1 seed, will they even risk playing Hurts for a full game in the regular season’s final three weeks? If the star passer misses those contests, MVP will likely be Mahomes’ to lose.
(Advanced stats source: Next Gen Stats, Football Reference, ESPN Analytics, RBSDM.com)
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