New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley’s last two games have not only solidified him as a leader on a team that should reach the playoffs, but it has thrust him back up the odds board in the race for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.

A few weeks ago, this looked like Seattle quarterback Geno Smith’s award to win. Smith hasn’t played poorly, but his Seahawks have lost five of their last six games. Barkley, meanwhile, has run for over 80 yards and a score in each of the Giants’ last two games, putting him at 1,254 yards on the season and fourth in the NFL this season.

Barkley Emerging as Leader for the Giants

In his first healthy season since 2019, Barkley is showing off his leadership qualities on a team that wasn’t expected to win more than six games to start the season. Instead, the G-Men are a win away (over the lowly Indianapolis Colts at home on New Year’s Day) from clinching their first playoff berth since 2016.

Barkley said that the 20-20 tie to open December against Washington “felt like a loss,” adding that he didn’t make enough plays in the key divisional game.

In the rematch with the Commanders two weeks later, Barkley rushed for a touchdown on a direct snap and also had several key first downs in a fourth-quarter drive that put the Giants up eight points in the final two minutes.

This week against Minnesota, despite the close loss on a 61-yard field goal, Barkley was again clutch in the fourth quarter, breaking a 27-yard touchdown run on fourth and 2 to tie the game.

Even with that loss, the Giants got help from the Commanders, Detroit, and Seattle, who all lost on Sunday. That leaves the Giants one win away (or a loss from two of those three teams) from a post-season berth at 8-6-1. They are likely to earn the second wild card spot in the NFC behind Dallas.

Barkley Trending Up With Smith Trending Down in Odds for NFL’s Comeback Player

Geno Smith is eighth in the NFL with 3,886 passing yards, and he has helped the Seahawks well surpass their five-win total in preseason betting. At 7-8, however, they need to gain a game on the Commanders to reach the postseason.

Before the Seahawks’ current 1-5 skid, Smith was the heavy favorite for this award. In October, Barkley was the favorite, and now the two are co-favorites at DraftKings. Here’s how the contenders line up currently and over the past two months.

Saquon Barkley, NYG+175+500-245
Geno Smith, SEA+175-850+850
Christian McCaffrey, SF+250+3750+1100
Jared Goff, DET+650
Derrick Henry, TEN+6000+5000+975

Jared Goff became a late contender, but with Detroit’s loss to Carolina putting a big dent in the Lions’ playoff hopes, his winning the award looks unlikely. Christian McCaffrey, the other contender, has been a huge part of San Francisco’s eight-game winning streak on their way to the NFC West title despite losing two quarterbacks this year. McCaffrey staying healthy all year has been a big win for him, but he sits nearly 300 yards behind Barkley in the rushing department. Including receiving yards, however, they are nearly identical and both have scored 10 all-purpose touchdowns.

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Will Barkley Beat the Odds to Win NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award?

A case can be made for Barkley, Smith, and McCaffrey, as it’s a deep field for the award this year. Barkley, however, has the inside track if he can have two more strong games and lead the Giants back to the playoffs. What we believe sets the Giants RB apart is that among the candidates, he is the only one in the top-five overall at his position.

His big touchdowns in the last two games have put him back on the radar. The Colts, this week’s opponent, rank 20th in the NFL in rush defense by giving up 123 yards per game on the ground. If Barkley can have another big day to bring the Giants into the playoffs, we believe the award will be his.

Prediction: Saquon Barkley, +175

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