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NFL: Comeback player of the year contenders

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith is the leading candidate for NFL Comeback Player of the Year, an award that recognizes those players who overcome adversity.

That usually means players who have battled back from injury, played poorly the season before or returned to the league after a career hiatus.

But Smith - who impressed in a three-game run as Seattle's starting QB last season -  does not fall into any of those categories, although he has been overcoming adversity all his life. 

Geno Smith @ -700

Smith's back story is an interesting one as the 32-year-old, who was raised by his grandmother, spent seven years bouncing around the league as a back-up after losing his former starting role on the New York Jets roster following an infamous locker room sucker punch.

The punch broke his jaw and effectively cost him his job as the Jets enjoyed short-term success with another QB and then he tore his ACL toward the end of his time with them.

After six years in the wilderness, he got another chance when Russell Wilson went down with injury last season. Smith took that opportunity, impressing Seahawks' coach Pete Carroll with his poise as the team went 1-2 in the starter's absence.

When Wilson was traded to the Denver Broncos for a slew of players and draft picks, Smith went into a training camp QB battle with new arrival Drew Lock - which he won easily.

The 2022 Cinderella story began with his first opening-day start in eight years, on Monday Night Football, and against Denver with the man he had been backing up in the opposing huddle.

He outperformed Wilson as the unfancied Seahawks, who were expected to go 5-12 this year, won with Smith looking down an ESPN camera lens in the aftermath and saying: "They wrote me off. I ain't write back, though."

If guiding the Seahawks to a 7-5 record and playoff contention was not enough of a qualifier for this honor, Smith is the NFL's leader in completion percentage (72.7%), which incidentally is the fourth-highest rate by a regularly starting QB in the first 12 games of a season in league history. 

He has tied another record by recording 12 consecutive games completing at least 60% of his throws with a passer rating of at least 80 and his overall passer rating on the season is currently second only to Miami's Tua Tagovailoa.

Saquon Barkley @ +375

Coming off of two injury-ravaged seasons in which he started a total of 15 games and scored just two rushing touchdowns, Saqoun Barkley has been close to his best again in 2022.

The Bronx-born star, whose contract is up at the end of the season, leads the New York Giants with 1,055 rushing yards, 40 receptions and eight touchdowns.

However, after coming up big time with 152 yards on a career-high 35 carries against the Houston Texans in Week 10, Barkley's production has dropped off at an alarming rate.

The 25-year-old has a combined 124 rushing yards in three games since, averaging just over 2.8 yards per carry and has just been included on the Giants' latest injury report with a neck issue.

For a player with his history and in a contract year, that is concerning news.

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Christian McCaffrey @ +3300

Christian McCaffrey had sat out even more games than Barkley over the two previous years, but has not missed a beat this season at either the Carolina Panthers or San Francisco 49ers. 

The 26-year-old has appeared in only 10 of a possible 33 games dating back to the 2020 campaign because of numerous ailments, including sprains and/or strains to his both ankles, his shoulder, his glute and his hamstring.

But he remains a long shot for the award because his overall production on the season so far is slightly inferior to the Giants star, who has 37 more net yards, 355 additional rushing yards and one more touchdown to his name. 

Derrick Henry @ +5000

Back in September, Derrick Henry was seen as the frontrunner for this award as he set about his task of regaining the rushing crown and leading the Tennessee Titans to the playoffs.

Both of those goals remain on the table for the workhorse back, who become only the eighth running back in NFL history to surpass the 2000-yard mark in a single season two years ago.

A foot injury limited him to only eight games last season, but he has been instrumental in the Titans' success this year, accumulating 1,078 yards on the ground and 10 TDs.

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