Thanks to the widespread proliferation of legalized sports betting, we've seen an explosion of available markets in terms of NFL awards. Which is fantastic because the MVP market is, as I noted while last week, quite the mess due to longer shots winning the award several times in the last few years. The offer much more viable long shots to land a winner.
As with the other awards we've discussed (see: links above), I'll have some best bets, some midrange bets and some long shots for the Comeback Player of the Year Award. But first, some general theories about how to attack this specific market, because this award in 2023 is incredibly unique.
Given the events of Week 17 last year, Damar Hamlin (-285) is a massive favorite to win the award. You will hear people suggest not to bother betting the award because if Hamlin plays this season -- after nearly dying on the field against the Bengals on Monday night in Week 17 -- he will generate plenty of support to win the award. In fact he even got a vote LAST year; safe to say that voter will give Hamlin their support again this year almost blindly. But (-285) isn't the same as something like (-10000), meaning there is some market uncertainty on Hamlin.
And maybe there should be, given the Bills safety will be on the field to begin the season. Specifically, it appears Hamlin will be ready to roll out of the gate. Recency bias is a real thing when it comes to NFL voting and there may be more impactful, on-field players returning from injury, etc., over the full course of the season or near the end of the year.
Of the 12 winners since 2011 (year of new CBA, which is how we've examined these awards so far), eight were quarterbacks. Only Keenan Allen, Jordy Nelson, Rob Gronkowski and Eric Berry -- the first three from significant on-field injuries, Berry from cancer -- won the award as non quarterbacks during this time stretch. Worth noting: Geno Smith and Philip Rivers won CPOY simply coming back from either not playing or playing poorly.
There's probably nothing more important than an archetype for an award so let's unlock some winners.
Comeback Player of the Year
Best top bet: Russell Wilson (20-1)
This is a Sean Payton-based archetype bet. Wilson famously has never received a single MVP vote and hasn't really been in contention for any awards (although he should have won OROY over RG3 in 2012, but that's another story). As mentioned above, though, quarterbacks with bounce-back seasons are primed for this award. Russ would normally be something like 10-1 or lower if Hamlin wasn't involved in the equation. Because of the market favorite, Wilson is getting exactly the odds we want to attack at the top of the market. Payton has come out strong for Russ this preseason, meaning we can buy into the Broncos coach having confidence in his quarterback. If Wilson produces a Pro Bowl-caliber season and the Broncos make the playoffs he'll be under heavy consideration for this award.
Best midrange option: John Metchie (28-1)
Again, this tracks as an archetype bet. We've seen several wide receivers win the award and we've seen someone return from cancer to win the award. Hamlin is a great story but you could easily argue a really productive season by Metchie for the Texans is an even better one. Metchie and after beating the disease. I liked him as a long shot to win OROY last season and now he's going to be playing for a Texans team with an ugprade at quarterback in rookie C.J. Stroud and a lack of competition (Nico Collins, Noah Brown, Dalton Schultz, Robert Woods) in terms of pass catchers. Metchie could be the actual feel-good story that wins this award.
I've hammered home the point that Sam Darnold is a decent long-shot MVP bet if he ends up playing a bunch in this Kyle Shanahan offense and playing well, which most quarterbacks do when Shanahan gets ahold of them. But it might make way more sense to bet on Darnold for CPOY than MVP if that narrative is going to hold true. Darnold could have a really good season under this hypothetical and still not win MVP but a great season leading the Niners to the postseason would be almost equivalent to Geno Smith last season. Darnold's a high enough draft pick who's struggled enough his success could trump other narratives. Adams is a super-duper long shot who doesn't fit the archetype we're looking for, but he's playing for a Seattle defense that hasn't been particularly great the last few years and he's a forgotten man; if he returns and posts a bunch of sacks and defensive stats and the Seahawks win the division, Adams would be worth a dabble at this long number.