The 2021 NFL regular season is in the books and the playoffs are only days away. The Buffalo Bills won the AFC East for the second year in a row while the New England Patriots finished runners up, while backing into the playoffs in Week 18. You may have heard by now that the Bills and Patriots will square off Saturday night in the Wild Card round. With that just ahead of us, let’s take a step back to distribute some awards around the division.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: WR Jaylen Waddle
When the Miami Dolphins drafted Waddle in the first round this past April, many wondered if he would be able to reestablish the connection he had with Tua Tagovailoa during their time at Alabama. Did they ever. A reliable and available rookie target, Waddle set the rookie receiving record with 104 catches on the season. He also had 1015 yards with six touchdowns while posting ten games with at least five catches. The Dolphins showed creativity moving Waddle all around the formation to set him up for success and it worked. Waddle will be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: LB Jaelan Phillips
Shoutout to the Dolphins for having rookie MVPs on both sides of the ball. Phillips was a force for the defense after being drafted 18th overall this past April. He finished the year with 20 tackles and an impressive 8.5 sacks, which was first among all rookies in the AFC. With the blitz packages that Miami likes to run, Phillips showed an ability to get home and make big plays.
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Damien Harris
Part of the reason the New England Patriots returned to the playoffs is due to the play of Damien Harris. Harris had 929 yards on the ground this season and, more importantly, had 15 touchdowns—which ranked second in the league. Especially down the stretch, Harris showed up when it mattered the most. Seven of his touchdowns came in the last four games of the season and two of those games he rushed for over 100 yards. With winter weather set to blanket the playoffs, Harris is one of the difference makers who could help the Patriots make a run.
Defensive Player of the Year: S Jordan Poyer
There are many talented players in the division worthy of this accolade such as Xavien Howard and J.C. Jackson, but it’s time to show some love to Jordan Poyer The man had a phenomenal season finishing with 85 total tackles. Not only that, he had five interceptions on the back end of the defense. However even all of this wasn’t enough for Poyer to make the Pro Bowl, which is disappointing to say the least. He is among the best coverage safeties in the league and was a huge reason why Buffalo fielded the top overall defense.
Division MVP: QB Josh Allen
What quarterback would you want leading your team in the division right now other than Josh Allen? Sure, his performance this season wasn’t as perfect as last year but it was still just as impressive. Allen passed for over 4400 yards with 36 touchdowns through the air and another six scores on the ground. He led the Bills to the division title after getting a huge contract before the season started. Another important stat for Allen: He has yet to throw an interception in the fourth quarter this season. With the playoffs here, that’s an important stat to keep in mind during crunch time. Allen is the heart and soul of Buffalo and if they are able to make a Super Bowl run it will be due to him.