Mac Jones played his best game in weeks Sunday as he led the New England Patriots to a 50-10 victory over the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.
But his primary competitor for the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Award was even better.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase put on a historically dominant performance in his team’s dramatic 34-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Chase’s final line: 12 targets, 11 catches, 266 yards with three touchdowns, including a 69-yarder and a 72-yarder.
It was the highest single-game receiving yardage total ever by an NFL rookie, and it helped the Bengals clinch their first AFC North title since 2015. It also triggered a significant shift in Offensive Rookie of the Year odds.
As NESN’s Sam Panayotovich noted Monday morning, Chase now is viewed as the OROY favorite (-225) with one week remaining, leapfrogging Jones (+175).
Chase was the early front-runner for the award, but a midseason slump (20 catches on 39 targets for 204 yards over five games from Week 8 to 13) allowed Jones to surge ahead. The 2021 No. 5 overall pick has since rebounded, however, totaling nearly 400 receiving yards in back-to-back pivotal wins over the Baltimore Ravens and Chiefs.
On Sunday, Chase broke former LSU teammate Justin Jefferson’s single-season rookie record for receiving yards. He’s now up to 79 receptions for 1,429 yards and 13 touchdowns through 16 games, with an 18.1 yards-per-catch average that ranks first in the NFL.
Chase is the first NFL player since 2013 to record two 200-plus receiving games in the same season and the first rookie to achieve that feat since at least 1950, per NFL.com. He’s been simply superb for a Cincinnati team that suddenly looks like a legitimate contender.
Jones bounced back from a similar swoon in his team’s decimation of the Jags, completing 22 of 30 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers and finishing as Pro Football Focus’ second-highest-graded quarterback in Week 17, trailing only Aaron Rodgers. He’s the first rookie QB since Dak Prescott in 2016 to start every game and lead his team to the playoffs, which the Patriots clinched with their win over Jacksonville and the Miami Dolphins’ loss to the Tennessee Titans.
That’s a compelling narrative, especially since Jones arrived in New England just a year after Tom Brady’s departure. But with Chase now surging, Jones might need to shred the Dolphins’ defense in Week 18 to win over Rookie of the Year voters.
Depending on how the final week of the regular season shakes out, Jones and the Patriots could face off against Chase, Joe Burrow and the Bengals in the Wild Card round.