Belichick favored to win Coach of the Year after Patriots' stellar run
Bill Belichick has been regarded as the NFL's best coach for the better part of two decades, winning Coach of the Year three times in that span. But it's been 11 years since the last time he was bestowed the honor despite winning three Super Bowls in the last six seasons.
If the betting market is any indication, the wait could be over soon.
The longtime Patriots coach took over as the favorite to win the award (+300) after New England ripped off its sixth straight victory with Sunday's 36-13 win over the Titans, supplanting Cardinals coach and previous favorite Kliff Kingsbury (+400). Those two are followed closely by Packers coach Matt LaFleur (+600), while Bengals coach Zac Taylor (+800) and Titans coach Mike Vrabel (+800) are the only other contenders priced shorter than 15-1.
It's been a slow rise to the top of the oddsboard for Belichick, whose Patriots got off to an uninspiring 2-4 start and looked like long shots to make the playoffs, let alone the division. Since then, New England has won its last six games by an incredible 24.7 points per contest to seize the top spot in the AFC East. For context, the undefeated 2007 Patriots outscored their opponents by a record 19.7 points per game.
As is the case for any Belichick-led squad, defense has been the calling card for this year's team. New England is allowing the NFL's fewest points allowed per game (15.8) and ranks second in total takeaways (25). This unit has been unbelievably stingy during the Patriots' win streak, holding five of six opponents to 13 points or fewer with a combined 26 points allowed in the last four weeks.
The bigger surprise has been on the other side, where rookie Mac Jones has matured into a dangerous passer under Belichick's watch for the NFL's hottest offense. New England has scored 35.2 points per game during its six-game win streak - best in the league - while Jones has posted the best passer rating (106.4) of any starter since Week 7.
The Patriots face arguably their biggest test of the season this week against the Bills, who trail New England by a half-game in the AFC East standings. Those two teams will face off twice in the next three weeks in a stretch that could ultimately decide the Coach of the Year race: 21 of the last 25 winners have led their team to a division title, and the four who didn't were all in their first or second year with their team.
There's an elevated standard for Belichick. During the three times he won this award, his Patriots finished with at least 14 wins, which won't be the case for this year's squad. They also featured Tom Brady, the current MVP favorite. But if this group can hold off Buffalo for the division crown and challenge for the top seed in the AFC, all with a rookie quarterback? This will be Belichick's award to lose ... once again.