Everybody loves a good comeback story. The race for this year's Comeback Player of the Year award has considerably heated up in recent weeks while perhaps taking a few unexpected twists and turns along the way. Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback Dak Prescott was once largely expected to capture the honor, but some doubt has begun creeping into the evaluation due to an unexpected late-season drop for Prescott and Dallas' offense.
Prescott has not quite been his dominant self since returning from a calf injury suffered back in a Week 6 victory over the New England Patriots. Since then, Prescott has completed 179-of-276 passing attempts (64% completion percentage) for 1,785 passing yards, nine touchdowns, and six interceptions. Prescott's per game average of 255 passing yards over that timeframe is rather meddling and accurately represents his recent form, which owner Jerry Jones somewhat controversially referred to as a "slump."
Prescott is not playing poorly. The former fourth-round selection is just not performing at the highly elite rate we've come to expect of him throughout the years and it's opened the door for a pair of rather intriguing Comeback Player of the Year hopefuls.
Fellow comeback-quarterback Joe Burrow is currently laying his own claim to the stake. Burrow suffered a torn ACL a year ago but has triumphantly returned to place Cincinnati in the thick of a competitive and unpredictable race for the division title in the AFC North. Burrow's Bengals currently own first place in the division, but a Week 16 matchup with the Baltimore Ravens looms large. However, even a defeat in that highly intriguing contest would still set Cincinnati up nicely to earn their first playoff appearance since 2015 via a wild-card spot.
Quarterbacks routinely secure these yearly honors, but one defensive player refuses to go down without a fight. San Francisco's Nick Bosa has been in haunting form all throughout 2021. The former Ohio State standout tore his ACL during a Week 2 contest against the New York Jets in 2020 but has returned with a vengeance. The surging 49ers have reigned victorious in five of their last six contests and now find themselves in their best form as they approach the NFC playoffs. Bosa's impressive and consistent play has had a lot to do with San Francisco's improving circumstances. Bosa's 15 sacks ties him for second place in the league (alongside Myles Garrett), trailing league-leader T.J. Watt by 2.5 quarterback takedowns.
Prescott is still considered the odds-on favorite to secure the award. The outcomes of these nominations are often best viewed as a popularity contest and Prescott undeniably plays for America's most popular team. That's not to say there wouldn't be any merit to Prescott winning. The Cowboys own the best record among the competitors and should capture the division title shortly. Dallas is capable of making a run to Super Bowl LVI. That counts for something.
But what was once seen as a foregone conclusion is now nothing of the sort. Bosa and Burrow are both primed to wrap up the regular season in rather impressive fashion. Prescott may still win, but legitimate questions have been raised regarding his candidacy in recent weeks.