Clubhouse Leader: Looking at the NFL award races after Week 5 originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
* Throughout the 2021 NFL season, NBC Sports Washington's Ethan Cadeaux will follow all of the NFL's award races as part of the Leader in the Clubhouse series. Here, he looks where each award race stands after Week 5.
Another thrilling week of football is in the books.
Week 5 of the 2021 NFL season was headlined by the Los Angeles Chargers, who improved to 4-1 after knocking off the Cleveland Brown in a shootout, 47-42. The Arizona Cardinals remained undefeated, defeating rookie Trey Lance and the San Francisco 49ers. And, the week came to a close in an exciting fashion, as Lamar Jackson engineered a 19-point comeback to lead the Ravens to an overtime victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
Things are starting to take shape after five weeks. But, with 12 games remaining for each team, there's plenty of football left to be played. However, it's not too early to take a deep dive into each of the NFL's annual award races.
Here are the favorites for each NFL award, our predictions for each honor and analysis for every award race. Who else can emerge?
Without further ado...
Most Valuable Player
Favorites: Josh Allen, Tom Brady
NBC Sports Pick: Justin Herbert
Keep an eye on: Lamar Jackson
In Week 5, the Buffalo Bills established themselves as arguably the AFC's best team. Buffalo's trip to Arrowhead ended with a blowout victory over the back-to-back conference champion Kansas City Chiefs, led by Josh Allen's four-touchdown performance.
Over the past three weeks, no quarterback has played better than Allen. He's led the Bills to four straight wins, with Buffalo looking better and better each week. After a breakout season in 2020, Allen is proving he's an MVP-caliber quarterback this season. And, with Buffalo's easy schedule the rest of the way, he should have plenty of chances to continue posting MVP-like numbers.
While Allen has been incredible, Chargers signal-caller Justin Herbert has been just as good. The former Oregon star led LA to a 28-point fourth quarter on Sunday, leading the Chargers back from a two-touchdown deficit to knock off the Browns in a shootout. After one of the best rookie seasons of all time by a quarterback, Herbert has been even better in Year 2. His Chargers are 4-1 and he's got a legit shot at winning Most Valuable Player.
Yet, if there's one name that could continue to shoot up the MVP ladder in the coming weeks, it's Lamar Jackson. The Ravens quarterback had arguably the best game of his career on Monday, throwing 442 yards and four touchdowns in a comeback victory over the Colts.
As Jackson trotted off the field on Monday, the 24-year-old quarterback heard M-V-P chants ring throughout M&T Bank Stadium. If he continues on his current trajectory, Jackson could certainly win his second MVP in three years.
Offensive Player of the Year
Favorite: Derrick Henry
NBC Sports Pick: Derrick Henry
Keep an eye on: Davante Adams
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry is predicted to win Offensive Player of the Year, an award he also took home last season.
In 2020, Henry ran over 2,000 yards, accomplishing a feat only seven other players have ever done. Through five weeks in 2021, Henry already has 640 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. That's 2,000-yard mark is certainly attainable, and honestly, it's almost expected at this point. No defense can stop him.
If Henry were to slump or fall off, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams could make a run for the Offensive Player of the Year award. Last week, Adams topped the 200-yard mark for the first time in his career and could have totaled even more had a few Aaron Rodgers throws gone a bit differently.
Adams is the best wide receiver in football and has the volume to put up monster stats. If there's any non-quarterback that could challenge Henry for the OPOY honor, it's him.
Defensive Player of the Year
Favorite: Myles Garrett
NBC Sports Pick: Aaron Donald
Keep an eye on: Trevon Diggs
Every week, Myles Garrett continues to wreak games. Even as the Browns defense struggled this past week, Garrett still registered a sack on Justin Herbert. He's dominant in the run game as well. Garrett is a big favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year, but he's got some challenges not too far behind.
Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Donald has won this award three of the past four seasons and simply can never be counted out of the race. He's the best defensive player in football and still manages to put up incredible numbers despite constantly facing double- and triple-teams.
But if the season ended today, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs would be the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. The second-year cornerback has already recorded six interceptions in five games, which is more than 27 other teams. He's emerged as a true No. 1 cornerback and has won individual matchups against some of the NFL's best receivers like Mike Evans, Keenan Allen and D.J. Moore.
Diggs likely won't continue his incredible pace of an interception-per-game, but he's done more than enough already to keep his name in DPOY discussions throughout the year. If he gets to 10-plus picks on the year, he has as good of a chance as anyone to win Defensive Player of the Year.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Favorite: Ja'Marr Chase
NBC Sports Pick: Ja'Marr Chase
Keep an eye on: Mac Jones, Najee Harris
The Offensive Rookie of the Year award has almost always gone to a quarterback in recent years. But if there is one season that will break the trend, it's this one.
Ja'Marr Chase, the Cincinnati Bengals' first-round pick, has been as advertised and more through five weeks of the season. He's already over 450 receiving yards for the year and has five touchdowns to date, scoring in four of Cincinnati's five games. He's on pace to finish with 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns, which would be more than enough to win him this award.
Yet, with this honor being so QB-dominant as of late, it's way too early to count out Mac Jones. If the New England Patriots signal-caller can turn in more performances like the one he had in Week 4 against Tampa Bay, he'll make a great case for OROY.
Don't count out Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris, either. While he hasn't been great on the ground, Harris has already established himself as one of the NFL's best receiving backs. He has a major role in Pittsburgh's offense, something that's unlikely to change all year.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Favorite: Micah Parsons
NBC Sports Pick: Micah Parsons
Keep an eye on: Asante Samuel Jr.
The race for Defensive Rookie of the Year is quickly turning into a three-man contest between Micah Parsons, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Asante Samuel Jr. But for now, it's the Cowboys linebacker that's the clear favorite.
Parsons' numbers don't always stand out, but the rookie linebacker can play all over the field and make plays from multiple positions. His play has been a major reason the Cowboys' defense looks significantly better than it did in 2020.
Samuel is Parsons' biggest challenger for the award right now. The Chargers cornerback won Defensive Rookie of the Month for September 2021 and has been arguably the team's best cornerback so far. Keep an eye on him, for sure.
Comeback Player of the Year
Favorite: Dak Prescott
NBC Sports Pick: Dak Prescott
Keep an eye on: Joe Burrow
This award is Dak Prescott's to lose. And, the odds continue to shift in the Cowboy QB's favor more and more each week.
What Prescott is doing on a weekly basis makes it hard to believe that it was just one year ago when he suffered that gruesome ankle injury that ended his season. He's playing at an MVP level and the Cowboys are following his lead, too. It will take something catastrophic for Prescott to not win this award.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow also returned from a devastating injury last season and is playing exceptionally well, too. Cincinnati is a surprising 3-2 through five weeks and Burrow is a major reason why. In many other years, he would run away with this award.
The bottom line is this: what Prescott and Burrow are both doing this season, just months removed from significant leg injuries, is extremely impressive. Regardless of who wins this honor, what both quarterbacks have been able to accomplish this year is simply incredible.
Coach of the Year
Favorite: Brandon Staley
NBC Sports Pick: Brandon Staley
Keep an eye on: Sean McDermott
For the third straight week, Chargers coach Brandon Staley is both the favorite and pick for this award.
Staley has completely turned the Chargers around. Yes, he inherited a team with a ton of talent and a young, star quarterback, but he's gotten the best out of his players in a way his predecessor wasn't able to. Los Angeles is 4-1, sitting atop the AFC West with victories over the Chiefs and Browns already on its resume.
For a first-year coach like Staley, what he's doing in Los Angeles is extremely impressive.
Don't forget about Buffalo Bills boss Sean McDermott. His team just dominated the reigning AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium -- foreshadowing that the conference might run through upstate New York in early 2022.
Looking at the Bills remaining schedule, 14-15 wins are certainly on the table, too. If Buffalo runs the table or comes close to doing so, it'll be difficult to not give McDermott the Coach of the Year award.