As J.J. Watt goes, so goes the Houston Texans. It's the reason why he's not only a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, but also should be in MVP consideration. Watt has done well this season, as have the Texans.
But on Monday Night Football against the New England Patriots, Watt was almost invisible. He was able to hit Brady three times, but none of those hits resulted in sacks. He also failed to get the tipped passes that are so important and helpful to the Texans defense. At the end of the day, he finished with only four tackles.
This week, Watt found himself slipping behind Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller for the most dominant defensive player in the NFL.
In his team's last win against the Raiders, Miller had a key sack and a forced fumble that put the game out of reach in the second half.
Aldon Smith of the San Francisco 49ers was also dominant on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, recording six tackles and two sacks.
So what are the odds in this three-horse race after Week 14?
J.J. Watt — -200
Watt is still the prohibitive favorite for the award based off of the simple fact that he is his team's most important player on either side of the ball. His stats do back up his status as the favorite, recording 64 tackles, two forced fumbles and an astonishing 15 pass deflections this season.
However, his struggles on Monday Night might have lowered his odds.
It also doesn't help that both Miller and Smith are having such great seasons. Watt is still the favorite, but his odds fluctuate every week.
Von Miller — +150
Miller's candidacy for DPOY continues to get stronger by the week. Winning the NFL's Defensive Player of The Month award for November helped Miller's candidacy, as did his Thursday Night Football game against the Raiders.
Unlike Watt, Miller isn't Denver's most important player (we all know who that is), and some could even make the argument that Elvis Dumervil is as important to the Broncos' defense as Miller. But if Miller continues the torrid pace that he's on, his chances of winning the award will only improve.
Aldon Smith — +300
For someone with Smith's stats, it's a wonder why his odds of winning the award are so much lower than the rest.
The answer is simple: the defense around him is the best in the game. At times this can prevent someone from winning an award unless they really stick out.
That's exactly what Smith has done. Through 13 games he already has 19.5 sacks, which is only three away from Michael Strahan's single-season sack record.
If he breaks the record, he should pick up some votes that would otherwise go to Miller or Watt simply because voters on any award tend to be slaves to statistics.
Regardless of who's the favorite after the first 14 weeks of the NFL season, there are still three more games left to be played, and the race for this award will come down to the wire. In the meantime, it's sure to be a heated debate amongst NFL fans.