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DaRon Bland #26 of the Dallas Cowboys returns an interception for a touchdown as we look at his best odds to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
DaRon Bland #26 of the Dallas Cowboys returns an interception for a touchdown in the game against the Washington Commanders during the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium on November 23, 2023 in Arlington, Texas. Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images via AFP.

After a record-setting start to this NFL season, we've seen a major shift in the betting odds for DaRon Bland to be the 2023 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. We take a look at his chances to win the award based on the best NFL odds.

With just under five minutes left on the clock and his team already up by four touchdowns, DaRon Bland set his sights on the NFL record books.

Entering Week 12, the Dallas Cowboys cornerback had already returned four interceptions for touchdowns, tying the league's single-season record through just 10 games. But he wanted more, especially against the rival Washington Commanders on Thanksgiving Day in one of the most-watched games in NFL history.

And so, with the entire football world watching, Bland made his move.

He had already made a break on the ball by the time it left QB Sam Howell's hands, and the former high school running back erased the final 63 yards with ease — breaking three tackles to secure his fifth pick-six of the season and earn his permanent display in Canton, Ohio.

Bland also vaulted his way into contention according to the NFL Defensive Player of the Year odds, as he sits in fourth place on the oddsboard entering Week 13. Is the Cowboys' second-year star worth a bet to win the award after his scintillating start?

Below, we make the case for DaRon Bland to be the 2023 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, with a look at his best odds and how he measures up to the competition this year and historically.

DaRon Bland's NFL Defensive Player of the Year odds

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Bland's emergence as a legitimate contender in this year's NFL Defensive Player of the Year race has been nothing short of meteoric.

Two weeks ago, the Cowboys' second-year star was dealing as high as 100/1 at DraftKings to win the award, even with three pick-sixes to his credit. A week later, after he tied the NFL record with his fourth return touchdown, he was still trading at 60/1 via Caesars.

Then came his heroic performance on Thanksgiving Day, which flipped this market upside down. The best price on Bland entering this week was +1600 at FanDuel, though even that disappeared in the hours before Dallas' Week 13 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks. Ahead of the Cowboys' Week 13 matchup, BetMGM is offering the best available odds at +1400 among our best sports betting apps.

You can beat yourself up for not backing Bland earlier in the season when his NFL Defensive Player of the Year odds were at their peak, but his candidacy isn't the same now as it was two weeks ago. And he still has six games left to shape one of the most compelling defensive seasons we've ever seen.

The case for DaRon Bland to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year

Every NFL award winner benefits from a "signature moment" to accentuate their case, and no defensive player has enjoyed a bigger moment this year than Bland's record-setting pick-six on Thanksgiving Day. Yet his candidacy extends far beyond a handful of highlight-reel plays.

Entering Week 13, Bland leads the league in interceptions (7), and he ranks in the top five in completion rate allowed (47.7%) and passes defensed (13). He also boasts the highest PFF coverage grade (91.2) among all cornerbacks, and his five non-offensive touchdowns are tied for the most by any player since the merger.

The most impressive stat of all? Quarterbacks have yielded a mere 36.9 passer rating on 59 targets against Bland, the lowest mark by any cornerback with at least 200 coverage snaps. For context: that's nearly three points worse than spiking it 59 times into the dirt.

Even with his stellar start, Bland still ranks fourth in the Defensive Player of the Year odds behind Myles Garrett, Micah Parsons, and T.J. Watt, all of whom are dealing at +250 or shorter across our best sports betting sites. That's as much a reflection of this award's preference for pass-rushers as it is an endorsement of those three stars.

As we've already seen this season, though, those odds can change in a hurry. And particularly in Bland's case, his price could skyrocket with just one play.

Historical comparisons for DaRon Bland as NFL Defensive Player of the Year

Historically, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award has been notoriously tough for defensive backs to win, which is a key reason why Bland is still dealing as a dark horse despite a record-setting start to the season.

Only four cornerbacks — Stephon Gilmore (2019), Charles Woodson (2009), Deion Sanders (1994), and Rod Woodson (1993) — have won this award in the last 40 years. All of them finished with at least six interceptions, and three of them led the league in INTs or pick-sixes, which is a good sign for the current league leader in both areas.

Ironically, the most recent comparison for Bland's historic effort might be Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs, whose injury earlier this season opened the door for a bigger role for Bland. In 2021, Diggs was in pursuit of the single-season record for interceptions (14), ultimately settling for a league-leading 11 INTs and two pick-sixes.

Yet unlike Diggs, who also surrendered the most receiving yards of any defender that season, Bland has been the best cover corner in football and grades out as a top-five cornerback against the run, too. And his overall PFF defense grade (91.5) ranks sixth in the entire league.

Should you bet DaRon Bland to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year?

There's no way around it: we've never seen a season like this from a defensive player in NFL history. If that isn't worth rewarding with NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors, then what is even the point of this award?

That doesn't necessarily mean he'll win it. After all, the odds are stacked against him as long as Garrett, Parsons, and Watt keep piling up sack numbers, while Bland is forced to compete against the history of defensive backs as much as the 2023 field itself.

Still, the budding superstar has already rewritten the rules on this market through the first 12 weeks of the season. And he has six more chances to put the finishing touches on a historic campaign.

On Thursday, he'll have another shot at glory against Seahawks QB Geno Smith, who has seven picks in his last seven games and is still battling a nagging elbow injury. In two weeks, he'll take aim at Buffalo Bill QB Josh Allen, who is tied with the Commanders' Howell for the league lead in interceptions (13).

And in Week 18, with one last shot to impress voters, he'll once again face off against Howell — the very passer who gift-wrapped that record-setting pick-six to fuel Bland's torrid rise up the oddsboard.

Because of the high variance nature of Bland's candidacy, it's a tough one to time in terms of the betting market. Every week that Bland goes without a splash play, his odds will likely lengthen. But if he continues to torment opposing quarterbacks — especially if he extends his NFL record with another interception return — the window to bet him could shut entirely.

Ultimately, Bland is worth a wager at this price, not because he has a surefire case to win the award but because his resume is already too good to ignore. And if the first three months are any indication, his final move may be yet to come.

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