With two weeks left of the NFL regular season, the race for Comeback Player of the Year is heating up. New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith are tied with the best odds at +175.
The three other players that are still getting consideration are San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (+250), Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (+700) and Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (+8000). In other words, this is a two-man race between Barkley and Smith.
Comeback Player of the Year
- Saquon Barkley New York Giants +175
- Geno Smith Seattle Seahawks +175
- Christian McCaffery San Francisco 49ers +250
- Jared Goff Detroit Lions +700
- Derrick Henry Tennessee Titans +8000
Odds Courtesy of BetMGM
However, that wasn’t the case just last week. Heading into Week 16, Barkley’s odds were as high as +2500. He then had 14 carries for 84 yards and a touchdown to tie the game in the fourth quarter before the Giants ultimately lost to the Minnesota Vikings. Smith’s performance in Seattle’s Week 16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs was average at best, as he threw one touchdown and one interception.
The last four Comeback Player of the Year awards have gone to quarterbacks and a running back hasn’t won the award since Garrison Hearst in 2001. So, if history is any indication, does that mean Smith is the likely winner?
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Smith’s Early Season Success
For the majority of the season, Smith has been the odds-on leader for the award, and for good reason. He took over as the starter for Seattle after Russell Wilson left for the Denver Broncos and led his team to some impressive wins.
The Seahawks were 6-3 at the midway point of the season and lead the NFC West for a good chunk of time. Smith is the only starting quarterback that has a completion percentage of 70% and ranks fifth in touchdowns thrown with 27. After spending the majority of his career as a backup and enduring an offseason in which a lot of people completely wrote off the Seahawks, Smith has made a strong case for himself to win the award.
However, Seattle needs to win their next two games in order to make the postseason. They’ve lost five of their last six games and much of the magic we saw from Smith early in the season has dwindled. If the season ended after Week 9, I would have said that Smith deserves the award. But with how he’s played over the second half of the season, I don’t think I can make the same argument.
Barkley’s Award to Lose
The Seahawks losing five of their last six games opened the door for Barkley in the Comeback POTY race. After three years of dealing with injuries, the Giants running back is finally looking like the player New York drafted out of Penn State. Barkley is fourth in the league in total rushing yards and has 10 touchdowns on the season.
He is the most important part of the Giant’s offense and is a massive reason that the team is just one win away from a postseason berth.
Barkley is also on pace to top his previous career-high of 81.7 yards on the ground per game, which he set in 2018 when he won Rookie of the Year.
Between the numbers that he’s putting up each week and the fact that the Giants should make the playoffs, Barkley would be my vote for Comeback Player of the Year. My only regret is that I didn’t take him sooner.
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