Bob Levey/Getty Images (Luck), Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images (Watson)

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  • Luck didn’t play the entire 2017 season with an injured shoulder, and now his Colts are back in the playoff mix. Watson tore an ACL in 2017, and now his Texans are atop the AFC South. Both are prime candidates for the NFL’s comeback award.
By Jonathan Jones
December 13, 2018

My esteemed colleagues have done a wonderful job in the past few weeks of handicapping the Coach of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year races. Thank you Conor, Kalyn and Andy for your hard work.

Now it’s my turn—let’s look at the Comeback Player of the Year award frontrunners with three weeks remaining in the season.

We had six straight years (2008–13) where this award went to a quarterback. I think QBs get enough awards, and I was pleased to see AP voters getting creative with the votes in the past five years. But this year the award will make its return to a signal caller.

T1. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis: Luck didn’t start throwing The Duke again until Memorial Day. Now he’s on pace for his second-most passing yards, highest completion percentage and most touchdowns in a season in his career. He’s being protected like never before with a career-low sack rate of 2.9% (thanks, Chris Ballard!) and his 7–6 Colts have a shot at earning a wild-card spot. If the Colts make the playoffs after Luck’s layoff of more than a year, this award is his.

T1. Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston: Coming off the second ACL tear of his career, Watson has the Texans back atop the AFC South with four (4!) fourth-quarter comebacks this season. A playmaker his entire life, Watson has improved on his biggest issue: turnovers. After throwing eight picks in seven games during his rookie season, Watson has just nine interceptions through 13 games this year. He has the Texans on the brink of their first double-digit-win season since 2012.

3. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston: His 12 1/2 sacks are good for third-most in the NFL this season after playing in just eight games the last two seasons combined. Watt has overcome back and leg injuries in his prime to return to the Defensive Player of the Year conversation (even though that award is most definitely going to Aaron Donald this year.) He’s also been a model of consistency this season. Since Week 3, Watt has recorded at least one sack in all but two games.

4. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants: OBJ is not yet back to his old status of sure-fire top-three receiver in the league, but his comeback is about more than that. He’s already recorded another 1,000-yard season with an aging and less-than-stellar quarterback. He didn’t just give up once he got paid, as some talking heads wanted you to believe. And he’s taken on more of a leadership role with the Giants. Good on Beckham for bouncing back on and off the field like he has.

5. Adrian Peterson, RB, Washington: I profiled the generational back’s return to greatness earlier this season. It seemed like his career was over last season in New Orleans and Arizona, but now he’s back in the top 10 in rushing and on pace for his most receiving yards since 2012. If Alex Smith had stayed healthy and Washington had a legitimate passing attack, we’re looking at even more rushing yards for Peterson for a team that would have likely been in playoff contention.

Honorable mention (alphabetical order): Josh Gordon, WR, New England; Andre Hal, DB, Houston; Derek Newton, OT, New Orleans; Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago; Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay; Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami.

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HOT READS

NOW ON THE MMQB: Conor Orr demands you pay attention to some out-of-the-box coaching candidates. … Why the marriage in Minnesota between Mike Zimmer and John DeFilippo was never going to work. … Jenny Vrentas with a brief history of the no-look pass that everyone has seen. … Episode 8 of “Fall of Titan” is now available… and more.

WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: Why Washington QB Josh Johnson isn’t crazy about the “journeyman” moniker. … What the Raiders will look for in a new GM after dismissing Reggie McKenzie. … Jack Dickey on bad NFL teams not knowing when to lose. … Come and get your power rankings here!


PRESS COVERAGE

1. Rich McKay, the chairman of the NFL’s competition committee, said 59 games have been decided by three points or fewer already this season. That’s the most in NFL history.

2. “I worked over 600 games in the NFL, and there wasn’t a single game right up to the very last one that there weren’t a half a dozen times in that game [when] I said, ‘Oh my god, how’s that guy gonna get up off the ground? He’s gotta be dead.’” – Former referee Ed Hochuli said on a recent podcast.

3. The New York Times takes a look at the Bowlen family battle for control of the Denver Broncos.

4. The 2018 Saints are so talented that 16 players who were on their roster during training camp are on other NFL rosters right now.

5. What if Nike did City Edition jerseys for the NFL like it did for the NBA? Love these concepts.


THE KICKER

On Tuesday I decided I wanted folks to get off my lawn. It drew considerable response. On Wednesday, I decided to explain why reclining your seat on an airplane is rude and terrible. I know you’ll agree.

Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com

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