There was no debate in selecting the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year for 2012. There was Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt, and then way down below there was everyone else. Watt led the league in sacks with 20.5 and had more pass breakups (16) than all but one defensive back. Watt snagged 49 of 50 votes in the balloting.
Good luck finding such a consensus for the award in 2013.
"It is an open pool," an NFC personnel director said. Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly is the 7-4 betting favorite heading into Week 16, according to Bovada.lv. Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis (5-2), St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn (5-1) and Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict (9-1) are next. Watt, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David and Seahawks safety Earl Thomas each came in at 10-1 odds.
Betting odds reflect public expectations, though, and not necessarily the view from within the league. Kuechly, Quinn, Sherman and Thomas were the players NFL personnel people cited most frequently when I polled them for leading candidates. A reasonable person could make a strong case for any of them, and for others. While there's a case for all four of those players with two games remaining in the season, to me, one player stands ahead of the rest at this point of the season. To me the DPOY should be Quinn.