Tom Brady is still looking for his fourth NFL MVP award. Bill Belichick is still working toward his elusive fourth NFL coach of the year award.
In what’s been an unpredictable 2021 regular season while expanding to 17 games, the league’s longtime playing and coaching GOATs are predictably ahead of everyone else in their respective professions in the race of top the individual awards after Week 12.
Belichick (+450 at DraftKings Sportsbook) went into Sunday’s game vs. the Titans just behind the Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury (+500), whose 9-2 team was on a bye. With New England’s big win over Tennessee to improve to 8-4 in first place in the AFC East, there’s no question Belichick should now be the heavy favorite going into Week 13.
Brady (+250 or in some places, +225) jumped way ahead of the Bills’ Josh Allen the rest of the younger QB crowd going into Sunday’s game at the Colts. Although he added only more TD pass to increase his league-high total to 30 and is now up to 9 interceptions, Brady made sure Tampa Bay came back and outlasted Indianapolis in a shootout. With it, the Buccaneer barely bested the Patriots’ record at 8-3.
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Following the breakup from Belichick before the 2020 season, Brady was the one who added his seventh Super Bowl ring as the Buccaneers made an amazing championship run as an 11-5 NFC wild card. The Patriots dropped five games to 7-9 without Brady and missed the playoffs last season, for the first time since 2008. The Patriots already have one more win in 2021 than last season and the Buccaneers will be bumping up to their first NFC South division title with Brady.
Belichick, also the Patriots’ primary personnel man, saw what went wrong minus Brady and worked to restore his team’s defensive prowess and offensive versatility, capped by a worthy system successor to Brady in rookie first-round QB Mac Jones. After a slow start, opening with a home loss to the Dolphins, the Patriots have won six consecutive games ahead of their Week 13 Monday night matchup with the second-place Bills.
New England has exceeded expectations instead of just meeting lofty ones, a change for Belichick’s consistent powerhouse teams with Brady at the helm. For an established six-ring coach, that’s the only way to get attention for the award over impressive upstarts such as Kingsury and the Chargers’ Brandon Staley.
For Brady, on top of the gaudy numbers he’s putting up at age 44, his MVP favorite status is a bit of a make-up narrative instead of a made-up one. Despite throwing 40 TD passes for the Bucs last season, Brady failed to get a single MVP vote behind winner Aaron Rodgers and runners-up Allen and Patrick Mahomes. Brady has responded with a more prolific yardage season with upgraded efficiency in his second year under Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich.
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Brady also added a fifth Super Bowl MVP last February against Mahomes’ Chiefs after getting past Rodgers’ Packers in the NFC championship game. Brady went into 2021 riding that high, making regular-season MVP his to lose, by a combination of him regressing with age and one of the young guns dominating the league. Neither half of that equation has happened as Brady has been on point even with some mistakes. You can bet he’ll be motivate to outduel Allen, too, when the Buccaneers host the Bills in Week 14.
When Brady won his last MVP for the Patriots in 2017, his statistics and profile were similar for a 13-3 team. That also was the last time Belichick won NFL coach of the year. They also made it a New England sweep of the awards in 2010. Belichick also won in 2003 and Brady in 2007, when he threw a then-record 50 TD passes.
Round 1 for Belichick without Brady and vice versa definitively went to the QB. Round 2 has been a draw so far, even though the Buccaneers (+550) with Brady still are much stronger Super Bowl-winning favorites than the Patriots (+1100) with Jones.
There was never a real answer to who was more important to the Patriots dynasty, Brady or Belichick. The stars aligned to put the best-ever QB and and best-ever coach together, and it was a special run. Now it turns out they can have separate but equal big-time success in the NFL, still better than the rest apart after all their years together.