Cooper Kupp vs Jonathan Taylor: Who will win NFL Offensive Player of the Year?

Cooper Kupp vs Jonathan Taylor: Who will win NFL Offensive Player of the Year?

Entering the final day of the NFL regular season, there is still some lingering drama with regards to playoff spots and playoff seeding. When it comes to individual headlines, the two biggest storylines center around Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp and Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor.

Those two top-tier talents have been the best in the NFL at their respective positions this season. And both head into today with a shot at a 2,000-yard season.

With the regular season wrapping up, there doesn’t appear to be any such drama when it comes to the NFL MVP race. Barring something unexpected, Aaron Rodgers will be named MVP for the second straight season and for the fourth time overall.

But the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award is far more of an unknown, outside of the fact that Kupp and Taylor are far and away the top two contenders.

Here’s a look at the latest Offensive Player of the Year odds.

Odds to Win NFL Offensive Player of the Year

  • Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams -110
  • Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts -110
  • Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers +5000
  • Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers +5000

Odds are via BetMGM.

So, who’s going to win the darn thing? Let’s take a look at the two favorites, shall we?

Kupp on Cusp of Breaking Multiple NFL Records

Priority number one for the Rams today is to lock up the NFC West title and the #2 seed in the NFC with a win over the 49ers.

But you can expect Matthew Stafford to also make it a priority to find Kupp early and often, both because Kupp is his favorite target and because he is closing in multiple single-season NFL records.

In 16 games, Kupp has 138 catches for 1,829 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is 12 catches from breaking the record Saints receiver Michael Thomas set two seasons ago and 135 away from breaking the yards record that Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson set in 2012–with none other than Matthew Stafford.

Kupp leads the NFL in catches, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns, and he is almost certain to secure the pass-catching Triple Crown.

Can he make it to 2,000 yards? Kupp has ten 100-yard games this season and five games with double-digit catches, so both aforementioned records are very much within his reach. But to become the first receiver to hit the 2,000-yard mark in a single season will require a season high in yards. His high to date is 163 yards against the Colts in a Week 2 win in Indianapolis.

Will a record-breaking season be enough for Kupp to win Offensive Player of the Year? History isn’t on his side there.

Since the AP award began in 1972, only two receivers have won OPOY: Jerry Rice in 1987 and 1993 and Thomas in 2019. In that 1993 season.

1987 Season Statistics for Jerry Rice (12 Games)

  • Catches: 65 (Rams WR J.T. Smith led the league with 91 in 15 games)
  • Receiving Yards: 1,078 (Smith led the league with 1,117 yards)
  • Receiving Touchdowns: 22 (1st – NFL record at the time)

1993 Season Statistics for Jerry Rice

  • Catches: 98 (2nd – Green Bay’s Sterling Sharpe had 112 catches)
  • Receiving Yards: 1,503 (1st)
  • Receiving Touchdowns: 15 (1st)

2019 Season Statistics for Michael Thomas

  • Catches: 149 (1st – NFL record)
  • Yards: 1,725 (1st)
  • Receiving Touchdowns: 9 (tied for 4th – Detroit’s Kenny Golladay led the league with 11)

There have been many great seasons for receivers over the last five decades, but for only two of them to be rewarded with OPOY shows what Kupp is up against.

Can Taylor Make a Push for the 2,000 Yard Club?

Taylor has more to do if he is to become the ninth running back in the 2,000-yard club, but it isn’t beyond him.

Taylor heads into the Colts’ season finale against the Jaguars with a league-leading 1,734 rushing yards, putting him 266 yards away from the 2,000-yard mark. He also leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 18.

Last season, he went into the season finale–also against Jacksonville, but in Indianapolis–needing 84 yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark as a rookie. He promptly got 84 times three, rushing for 253 yards on 30 carries to lead the Colts to a win.

The Jaguars enter today 25th against the run, giving up an average of 127.1 rushing yards per game. When the Colts met the Jaguars in Week 10, Taylor had 116 yards on 21 carries in a 23-17 win.

With the Colts needing a win to lock up a playoff berth without having to worry about results elsewhere, you can expect Frank Reich to lean on his best offensive player to take over.

It’s hard to envision Taylor winning Offensive Player of the Year if the Colts lose to the Jaguars and miss out on the playoffs. But if they take care of business as expected in Jacksonville, will a big day lock up the award?

2021 Season Statistics for Jonathan Taylor

  • Rushing: 317 carries, 1734 yards (5.5 yards per carry), 18 TD, 10 100-yard games
  • Receiving: 37 catches, 342 yards, 2 TD

History is on Taylor’s side from a positional perspective, relative to Kupp. A running back has won OPOY a record 26 times, including last season when Derrick Henry claimed the honor.

Of the eight running backs to reach 2,000 yards, seven won Offensive Player of the Year. The only one who didn’t was Eric Dickerson, who didn’t win despite rushing for 2,105 yards, a record that stands to this day.

Why did Dickerson not win? Because Dan Marino (in only his second NFL season) put together his own record-breaking year, becoming the first NFL quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns in a season.

Will a record-breaking season for Kupp deny Taylor? Both are certainly worthy candidates no matter what happens today, so it will be interesting to see what the voters decide.

By Eddie Griffin