How Von Miller Pulled Ahead of J.J. Watt in DPOY Race on Thursday Night

Thomas Galicia@thomasgaliciaContributor IIDecember 6, 2012

The race for the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year has been a tight one all season long, but as of Thursday night, Denver's Von Miller is now in the pole position for the award.

Miller—who, like the other contenders Aldon Smith and J.J. Watt, is in the second year of his career—had a field day against the Oakland Raiders with four tackles and a sack. However, the stats themselves don't tell the whole story, as Miller was in the Raiders' backfield all evening long.

One wouldn't blame Carson Palmer for being tired of seeing Miller. It wasn't just the sack or the tackles, it was the way that he altered Oakland's passing game. Palmer threw the ball away well before he intended to in order to avoid Miller, and in one instance, that led to a Champ Bailey interception.

Of course, Miller's sack also resulted in a Raiders fumble, setting up an eventual Broncos touchdown.

We praise J.J. Watt for doing the same thing, even when his statistics don't always match up to the impact. Miller is doing the same thing, but in recent weeks, has played better than Watt. Much like Watt, Miller just makes good things happen for the Broncos defense, even if it doesn't appear in the stat sheet.

He's also assumed the position as the leader of the Denver front seven, which has become one of the best in the NFL this season.

Right now, the statistics between the two are fairly even. Watt has 60 tackles and 17 sacks while playing defensive end whereas Miller plays a completely different position and has recorded 57 tackles and 16 sacks.

It is worth mentioning that, as of this writing, Miller has played one more game than Watt, and like Miller, Watt has a nationally televised game coming up this week where he can reclaim a hold on the title of Defensive Player of the Year.

Aldon Smith will likely have a big game against a Miami Dolphins offense that is without Jake Long and has struggled against aggressive defenses, so he could throw his hat back into the ring as well.

As of Thursday Night, this award belongs to Miller. Only temporarily, though. This race will come down to the end.