5 min read

Looking Back at the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Race

Betting in an NFL awards market differs from betting in other futures markets because voters determine the winner in awards races. In most futures markets, you’re betting on or, in some cases, against a definitive outcome. 

For instance, if you bet on the Super Bowl winner this year, there will not be any questions about which team wins that game. That’s not how things work in awards markets.

In awards markets, who wins is determined by who 50 individuals vote for. What you’re betting on in an awards market is who someone else thinks should win. It requires an entirely different process from any other betting market.

That’s why we will look back at each awards race from last season, so we can try to see things more from a voter’s perspective than from our own.

Others in series: CPOY | OROY | DROY | OPOY

Defensive Player of the Year Race

Premium pass rushers made up last year’s preseason favorites in the Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) race. Aaron Donald, T.J. Watt and Myles Garrett each had +700 odds, while Micah Parsons (+1000) rounded out the top four. Nick Bosa (+1500) was an appealing second-tier contender in DPOY betting markets.

Joey Bosa (+2500), Von Miller (+2800) and Khalil Mack (+3000) were a trio of mid-range longshots on contending teams. New England Patriots edge Matthew Judon, who was a factor in the 2021 DPOY race, was in the +3000 range before the season began.

Early Season

Garrett had two sacks on opening day, moving him to +500 odds, while Donald stayed at +700 with an opening night sack. Miller jumped to +1500 behind two opening-night sacks, while Mack jumped to +1200 behind three.

Parsons had two prime-time sacks, jumping to +750 after opening week. Through the season's first quarter, Parsons was the +250 DPOY favorite with four sacks for the 3-1 Dallas Cowboys.


Through five games, Parsons was the standalone DPOY favorite at even money. Nick Bosa, who was tied with Parsons for the league lead in sacks, jumped to +700 odds in this market.

During the next two games, Bosa stabilized at +700 odds, while Parsons increased his DPOY lead to -125. After a three-sack game in early November, Judon pushed himself into DPOY contention, despite the Patriots being a middling team.

All six of our panelists would have voted for Parsons at the halfway point of last season.

Second Half of the Season

Through 12 weeks, Parsons remained the standalone favorite, with Bosa and Judon as his primary competition. Judon would fall out of the race in the coming weeks, even though he’d finish the year top-five in sacks.

Parsons was still the favorite through 14 weeks, but Bosa was now +200 with a two-sack lead on Parsons. The San Francisco 49ers also were surging on a six-game winning streak, pushing them to 9-4. 

Catching Parsons seemed nearly insurmountable at the midseason point, but Bosa took the lead down the stretch as he increased his lead in the sack race.

The Last Week of the Regular Season

With one week to go, the DPOY race had two contenders:

  • Nick Bosa -1200
  • Micah Parsons +650

Bosa led the league in sacks with 17.5 for a 49ers team that had won nine games in a row. Bosa was the centerpiece for the league’s best defense and the NFC’s No. 2 seed.

Parsons entered the final week of the regular season with 13 sacks for the 12-4 Cowboys. Parsons is more than a pass rusher, as he’s arguably the most versatile defender in the league. However, Bosa now had a substantial lead in DPOY betting markets, where Parsons would have needed an epic regular-season finale against the Washington Commanders to make up enough ground to win.

The Vote

Bosa won in a landslide — as expected. Leading the league in sacks for a contending team is the sort of production profile that wins the DPOY race more times than not.

What’s curious is who received the other votes.

Haason Reddick finished second in the league in sacks (16) for the NFC's No. 1 seed. He was also, in a sense, the headliner for the league’s best pass rush. Reddick deserved consideration, but he was never a major factor in DPOY betting markets.

Chris Jones finished the year with 15.5 sacks for the AFC’s No. 1 seed. Jones is one of the league’s best disruptors, and he’s the most important player on the Kansas City Chiefs' defense by a mile. But, just like with Reddick, Jones was not treated like a major factor in DPOY betting markets.

Quinnen Williams is an excellent player for a New York Jets defense that exceeded virtually everyone’s expectations last season. But he finished the year with 12 sacks for a 7-10 Jets team.

Parsons, already a perennial contender in the DPOY race entering his third season, didn’t receive a vote despite being the leader in DPOY betting markets for most of the season.

Follow The 33rd Team Podcast Network on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.