Value bets in the NFL Awards market


Now that we are nearing the halfway point of the NFL season, let’s talk about the awards markets. Most people will take a look at these before the year, play a couple of big prices, and then look at them again late in the year, but midseason can often be the best time to enter the market since you have more information and a better idea who the top teams will be. Before we jump into the markets, let’s talk about what it takes to win an award.


Top NFL Resources:

NFL Odds | NFL Betting Splits | NFL Matchups

Before we jump into the markets, let’s talk about what it takes to win an award.

1. Performance – This is obvious. You have to do well in comparison to your peers in the market.

2. Team performance – When you look at any market that is not a rookie market, team performance heavily weighs into the outcome.

3. Narrative – Remember, these are awards voted on by the media. There has to be a good story that can be told for a player or coach to win.

In a sense, you are playing a parlay. If you cannot check all three of the above boxes, it’s extremely difficult to win an award in the NFL. The one exception is the rookie market, where your team does not have to be a standout to be able to win an award. Sure, it helps, but look no further than last year when the Jets took home both Rookie of the Year categories and missed the playoffs. In fact, just one of the last five Offensive Rookie of the Year winners made the playoffs (Ja’Marr Chase).

In addition to the narrative front, it’s important to understand what compels voters. For example, counting stats mean much more than advanced statistics when looking for award winners. Not many voters care about defensive efficiency statistics, but they love them some sacks. A quarterback’s EPA is much less important than the TD-to-interception ratio. If you break a record, that’s a huge plus.

Now let’s apply some of the above to current award markets and see if we can find a few plays.

Offensive Player of the Year

On paper and in the market, this looks like a two-horse race, Christian McCaffrey (+150) vs Tyreek Hill (+135). Both check the performance box as well as the team performance box, so it’s all about health and narrative here. Both players are currently banged up but expect to play this week. McCaffrey has more of a history of injuries, so I’ll give the slight edge to Hill on the health side.

Both players do have an interesting narrative argument. McCaffery has a phenomenal touchdown streak that is rolling along and is the key cog in the San Francisco offense that keeps chugging along. Even with that, Hill wins the narrative argument here as well. He plays in the most exciting offense in the NFL and, most importantly, has a good chance at beating Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving yards record. If Johnson’s record falls, Hill wins this going away. Additionally, if Miami wins the division, that’s a huge boost to Hill’s chances since it was unexpected.

The Bet: Hill +135

Defensive Player of the Year

Let’s look at the top 3 in the market here and then talk about narrative:

What jumps out at me right away is the drop from Myles Garrett and TJ Watt to Micah Parsons. He’s behind both in sacks and turnovers created and does not have a splash play like Garrett’s blocked field goal last week. Yes, he’s great, but he’s trading on reputation right now at +200 vs. being statistically equal to both Garrett (+200) and Watt (+225).

You could play Watt/Garrett combo here and end up with Watt/Garrett vs. the field at -150, but the time you’d have to tie up your money, three plus months, just isn’t worth it.

Now that we’ve narrowed it down to two, let’s look at the narrative. Watt won the award two years ago, so generally, I would hold that against him, but this award has had a run of repeat winners. In fact, since 2012, six of the ten winners were either Aaron Donald or JJ Watt. Five of the last ten winners have also led the league in sacks. Garrett has never eclipsed 16 sacks; Watt had 22.5 sacks the year he won.

I sat down to write this expecting to make a case for Garrett, but Watt at +225 is the better value. The one caveat will be health. Watt needs to stay on the field to be able to win this, and he does have a larger injury history.

The Bet: Watt +225