Back in training camp J.J. Watt was the clear betting favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year, Justin Houston to lead in sacks & Aqib Talib in picks. Let's see where we stand in week 11.
Who Wins Sack Crown?
There are no current Defensive Player of the Year odds at the books, but Watt remains the favorite. Bovada this week did release the favorites to lead the NFL in sacks this year. Entering the season, Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston, who led the league with 22 sacks in 2014 (half-sack off the NFL record), and Watt were +350 co-favorites. Then there was a big drop-off to Baltimore's Elvis Dumervil, St. Louis' Robert Quinn and Denver's Von Miller (all +800). I addressed the NFL sack leader in mid-August, and I went with Miller.
On Bovada's updated NFL odds for sacks, Watt is the +150 favorite, followed by New England's Chandler Jones (+175), Cincinnati's Carlos Dunlap (+700), the Chiefs' Houston (+800), Detroit's Ezekiel Ansah (+1000) and Seattle's Michael Bennett (+1600).
Jones leads the league with 9.5 sacks. He's on pace to shatter his previous career high of 11.5 in 2013, which was the only season of his four-year career that Jones played all 16 regular-season games. Jones has three games with multiple sacks this year, including three at Buffalo in Week 2. Jones has had at least one sack in the past four games. His Patriots are at the Giants on Sunday. Watt is second with 8.5 sacks. He is on pace to join late Hall of Famer Reggie White as the only players with three 17-sack seasons since the statistic became official in 1982.
Dunlap is tied with Watt at 8.5, while Ansah has 7.0 (he's about the only bright spot on that Lions defense this season; the team record is 15 by Robert Porcher in 1999), Bennett 6.5 and Houston 5.5. One guy who might have been in the mix for the sacks title is Miami's Cameron Wake as he has 7.0. But Wake is now out for the season. Miller, my preseason pick, has 4.0 sacks.
NFL Free Pick: Go with Jones. Watt does a lot more against the run, etc., while Jones is basically only asked to rush the passer.
Watt's top challengers for Defensive Player of the Year right now are probably Rams tackle Aaron Donald, Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib, Panthers cornerback Josh Norman and Raiders safety Charles Woodson.
Talib will miss this week's home game vs. Kansas City due to suspension after poking a Colts player in the eye last week so that could hurt his award chances a tad. Talib is the biggest playmaker in a Denver secondary that allows a league-low 181.0 passing yards. He has 20 tackles, eight passes defensed and three interceptions, with two returned for touchdowns. No cornerback has won the Defensive Player of the Year Award since Woodson in 2009.
Speaking of Woodson, he's having an amazing season at 39. He is tied for first in the NFL with five interceptions and also has 41 tackles. ESPN's NFL Live show named him its midseason defensive player of the year. Woodson suffered a separated shoulder in Week 1 but has played through it. He leads all safeties in early Pro Bowl voting.
Norman is going to cash in after this season as a free-agent-to-be. His four interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns, and shutdown cover ability have him rated the No. 1 cornerback by Pro Football Focus. Seattle and Philadelphia challenged Norman beyond the line of scrimmage just once in back-to-back games, and Norman knocked that one pass down. He's a big defensive reason why the Panthers are still unbeaten because star linebacker Luke Kuechly, the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, has missed three games due to injury.
Ladbrokes offers NFL odds on which player will lead the league in picks. Woodson is +300. The Colts' Mike Adams, who is tied with Woodson with five interceptions, is +500. Norman is +800.
NFL Free Picks: Norman leads the NFL in interceptions and wins Defensive Player of the Year. The Texans probably won't be good enough for Watt to get the award. Donald is stellar but doesn't put up eye-popping numbers as a tackle.