photo credit: nypost.com
Heading into Week 11 of the 2021 NFL season, we’ve seen a lot of surprises with teams and players, many of whom could be looking at some major hardware once the season is completed. With that said, I’ve decided to hand out some midseason rewards to some players and a head coach heading into Week 11. I’ll look at who I believe is the Most Valuable Player, Offensive Player Of the Year, Defensive Player Of the Year, Offensive Rookie Of the Year, Defensive Rookie Of the Year, Comeback Player Of the Year, and Coach of the Year.
Most Valuable Player: QB Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
photo credit: sportscasting.com
Sure, Matthew Stafford has had a rough few weeks on the field, but then again, every player has a few rough outings every now and then. But the Rams knew what they were getting when they traded for Stafford, and so far, he’s been having an MVP season. He’s 1st in passing yards, 3rd in passing touchdowns, has a 106.1 QB rating while completing 68% of his passes.
Does it help Stafford that he’s got more options on offense now than at any point in his career? Yes, and he’s been utilizing his options to get them on the same level he’s been playing at. Jared Goff was solid for the Rams, but knowing a better option was available, trading for Matthew Stafford has looked like one of the better deals in the past few seasons. Stafford has the Rams looking really good and as a potential Super Bowl contender, and his contributions haven’t gone unnoticed. If he can put the past two games behind him, he’ll look like the front-runner to win the MVP, if he isn’t already.
Offensive Player Of the Year: WR Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
photo credit: cbssports.com
If there’s anyone who has benefitted from the addition of Matthew Stafford on the Rams, its Cooper Kupp. Kupp has been looking like a young Calvin Johnson since he started the year, post up video game-like numbers in almost every game he’s played this year. So far, he leads all WRs in receptions (85), receiving yards (1,141), and receiving touchdowns (10).
Heading into this season, many didn’t believe that Kupp would show out and potentially break a record (most receiving yards in a season), but he’s proven to have instant chemistry with his new QB. Many are saying that Kupp could be the first player in NFL history to have 2,000 receiving yards in a season, and for good reason. His performance so far has been one for the record books, and at this rate, I can see him getting 2,000 receiving yards, and winning OPOTY.
Defensive Player Of the Year: CB Trevon Diggs, Dallas Cowboys
photo credit: nfl.com
Not all cornerbacks have the hands like a wide receiver, but Diggs has proven that he can catch the ball at any point in the game. Being the brother of Buffalo Bills WR Stefon Diggs, who’s known for his great hands and being one of the best WRs in the NFL right now, Trevon Diggs has been a QB’s nightmare on the defensive side of the ball. His 8 interceptions through 10 weeks currently leads the NFL, and he’s currently tied for 1st (with safety mike Edwards of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) for INT TDs.
His presence in the secondary has made the Cowboys job of producing wins a lot easier, and his ability to intercept passes only adds to what has been a great season for him. Some might say Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns deserves it over Diggs, but a cornerback who can change the dynamic of the game in an instant is hard to go against. Trevon Diggs is having an impressive year, and he should be rewarded for it with the DPOTY.
Offensive Rookie Of the Year: WR Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals
photo credit: actionnetwork.com
Personally, at the 2021 NFL Draft, I was hoping that the Bengals would select OT Penei Sewell, just so the Bengals could have a guy to protect QB Joe Burrow. Instead, the Bengals go back to LSU in the 1st round and select Joe Burrow’s former teammate Ja’Marr Chase. The chemistry was always there at LSU, but the NFL is a different ball game. With Ja’Marr Chase saying before the season that he had a hard time seeing the ball, there were some questions about him adjusting to the NFL. Through 10 weeks, Chase has put those questions to rest.
His 44 receptions don’t jump out immediately, until you realize that he’s leading all rookie WRs in receiving yards (835) and receiving touchdowns (7). Arguably being the best WR the Bengals have had since Chad Johnson (or Ochocinco) and having great chemistry with Joe Burrow has helped his cause and the Bengals chances of making the postseason. Bengals management knew what they were getting when they drafted Chase, but they must be impressed by how much he’s producing. LSU has produced great WRs over the years (OBJ, Justin Jefferson), and Chase is proving he belongs among the best WRs in the NFL. Without him, the Bengals may not be in postseason contention, and being rewarded with OROTY sounds fitting for him for the season he’s had.
Defensive Rookie Of the Year: LB Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys
photo credit: dallascowboys.com
Being chosen 12th overall by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2021 NFL Draft, and being one of the better defensive players in the draft, Parsons had a lot of expectations heading into his rookie year. The Cowboys defense has been one of the strong points this season, and Micah Parsons has certainly helped keep opposing offenses out of the end zone and off the board.
Through 9 games, Parsons has 55 tackles (41 solo, 14 assisted), 6 sacks, 2 passes defended and a forced fumble. Being paired with Leighton Vander Esch has helped the Cowboys linebacking core look its best in years, and having a season as a rookie that has him looking like a defensive star of the future should have Cowboys fans excited. He’s put an emphasis on taking pressure off the secondary and D-Line, and the way he’s producing, he’s my front runner for DROTY.
Comeback Player Of the Year: QB Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
photo credit: cbc.ca
Dak Prescott’s career has been an underdog story. Being drafted in the 4th round in the 2016 NFL Draft to starting the season opener his rookie year to becoming one of the best QBs in the league when no one thought he would do much when he was drafted, he has revitalized the Cowboys back to relevance, and he could’ve done great things last year until an ankle injury in Week 5 of the 2020 season ended his season, and the Cowboys chances for postseason success, prematurely.
This year, Prescott has came back and lifted the Cowboys to a 7-2 record through nine games, while posting 20 passing touchdowns to 5 interceptions, completing 70% of his passes while posting a 110.8 QB rating. Starting for the Cowboys comes with a lot of pressure, as everyone watches what the Cowboys do, but Prescott has silenced the critics about him and the Cowboys, who are looking like Super Bowl contenders. We’ve seen how the Cowboys are without Prescott starting, and his dominant play after coming back from an injury have put the Cowboys on the path to success. After the year he and the Cowboys had last season, he’s redeemed himself so far and should be the Comeback POTY.
Coach of the Year: Mike Vrabel, Tennessee Titans
photo credit: houstonchronicle.com
Vrabel’s career on the field helping the New England Patriots has been spectacular. Even more spectacular is his ability to coach the Titans to being a major competitor in the NFL. For starters, QB Ryan Tannehill didn’t have a great start to his career with the Miami Dolphins. Once he got signed by the Titans, Tannehill quickly became a top-tier QB under Mike Vrabel’s guidance. He may not be having a good year so far, but the Titans are racking up wins with Tannehill at QB. Another athlete that has taken major steps under Mike Vrabel is Derrick Henry. Before he got injured, Henry looked like the front-runner for the MVP. But no Henry, no problem for Vrabel.
Vrabel has the Titans sitting at 8-2 so far, with wins against The Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills and the Los Angeles Rams this season. With the best record in the AFC South and tied for the best record in the NFL (with the Arizona Cardinals and the Green Bay Packers), Vrabel has the Titans looking very good heading into the 2nd half of the regular season. His ability to adapt to injuries and beat top-tier teams have shown us that Vrabel is doing his job wonderfully and that the Titans should be taken seriously. Getting the Titans out of obscurity and putting them on a path to success, he’s my choice for Coach of the Year.