The 2017 NFL season begins in September and the 32 teams are finalising their preparations for the new campaign in the latter stages of their pre-season matches.
Players who missed the entirety or a large portion of last term will be desperate to take to the field once again in competitive action.
In the 2016 campaign Jordy Nelson enjoyed an outstanding campaign, one season removed from a torn ACL. He returned to help the Green Bay Packers’ surge to the NFC Championship game, winning the Comeback Players of the Year award in the process.
Several elite players suffered serious injuries in 2016, including JJ Watt and Earl Thomas on the defensive side of the ball. Their respective teams struggled to fill the void of their absences, leading to premature exits from the post-season.
We’ll now look at their odds to win the award this term and who else could contend for the crown.
JJ Watt – Houston Texans
Watt is the most dominant defender in the NFL when healthy. The 28-year-old has won Defensive Player of the Year award three times in his career – a feat shared only by Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor.
In his six years in the league he has notched 76.0 sacks, including two seasons of 20.5 sacks each. His ability to play anywhere on the defensive line and wreak havoc has been one of the reasons why the Texans have been successful since his arrival in 2011.
He played the opening three matches of last season, despite undergoing back surgery in the off-season. However, it was clear from the beginning that he was not healthy, although he did notch 1.5 sacks in his time on the field.
Following Houston’s loss to the New England Patriots he underwent further surgery that ruled him out for the rest of the term. Watt has had ample time to recover from the operation and has fully participated in the off-season programme.
Early reports suggest that he is back to his best on the field, although the proof will come in September. It would be foolish to count out such a talented player from returning the peak of his powers.
With Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus present in the pass-rush there’s no pressure on Watt to be dominant immediately. However, his ability and character should see him notch another 10+ sack season and at odds of 4/15.00+4004.004.00-0.25 with Betway to win the award.
Earl Thomas – Seattle Seahawks
Thomas has been regarded as the best safety in the NFL, emulating former greats of the game such as Ed Reed. He has been an essential part of the Seahawks’ secondary the ‘Legion of Boom’ since he was selected in the first round of the 2010 Draft.
The 28-year-old was named a First-Team All-Pro for four seasons on the bounce from 2012 to 2015. He has provided the security blanket for Seattle’s defense along with being the best ball-hawking players in the NFL, notching 23 interceptions in his career.
Thomas had not missed a game for his side in six seasons before he sustained a broken tibia in his side’s win over the Carolina Panthers. His absence was felt by Pete Carroll’s men as quality passing attacks exposed the void in the deep third of the field, compromising the defense.
As a result, Seattle were dispatched from the playoffs in the divisional round by the Atlanta Falcons with ease.
Carroll will be delighted to see Thomas return to the field after he initially claimed that he was considering retirement. The 28-year-old has returned to the club and should help propel them into another year of being ranked in the top five in the NFL.
The safety will need to have a strong statistical season to notch the award. A similar campaign to his five interceptions in the 2013 and 2015 terms might be enough. At odds of 10/111.00+100010.0010.00-0.10 with Ladbrokes he has good value to win the crown.
Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders
Perhaps the most devastating out of the three injuries mentioned thus far. The Raiders were on course to challenge for the AFC crown with their best record since the 2002 campaign. The club had endured a 14-season playoff drought until Carr produced an outstanding season to lead them back to the post-season.
Jack del Rio’s men were challenging for a first-round bye against their rivals the Kansas City Chiefs. However, he suffered a broken leg in the penultimate week of the regular campaign against the Indianapolis Colts. The injury resulted in the Raiders’ exiting the playoffs in the first round after third-stringer Connor Cook was pressed into action against the Texans.
Carr had thrown 28 touchdowns to six interceptions in his 15 matches. He was an outside candidate to be named MVP, although he might not have been able to overhaul Matt Ryan’s votes.
He signed a lucrative contract extension in the off-season, surpassing Andrew Luck as the NFL’s highest-paid player. Carr now has to live up his new deal and maintain his excellent form of 2016.
The 25-year-old has been in action during pre-season, but will have to reacclimatise to competitive action and being hit once again. Carr has a plethora of weapons on his offense, including Pro Bowl wideout Amari Cooper, who notched his second-straight 1,000-yard season in 2016. The running threat of the acquired Marshawn Lynch should also ease the burden from his shoulders.
Due to the focus of the quarterback position, Carr has perhaps the best opportunity to win the award if he can maintain his 2016 form this season. At odds of 6/17.00+6006.006.00-0.17 with Coral, the 25-year-old could be on course to win the award, the first major crown of his fledgling career.
JJ Watt To Be Comeback Player Of The Year
Earl Thomas To Be Comeback Player Of The Year
Derek Carr To Be Comeback Player Of The Year
Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.
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