Mac Jones has been the best rookie quarterback in the NFL by a wide margin this season. But is he the league's best rookie offensive player, or does a breakout wide receiver hold that title?
Bengals standout Ja'Marr Chase made a very strong case for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year on Sunday, exploding for 11 receptions on 12 targets for 266 yards and three touchdowns in Cincinnati's win over the Kansas City Chiefs that clinched a division title.
Chase now ranks fourth among all NFL wideouts with 1,429 receiving yards and leads the league in yards per catch (18.1). He's also ahead of Jones in the latest betting odds for Rookie of the Year, per PointsBet.
Quarterbacks typically have the edge for this award, though, and a wide receiver hasn't earned Rookie of the Year since Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014. Our Tom E. Curran, who has a vote for this year's ROY award, explained on the latest "Patriots Talk" podcast episode that QBs have a much higher impact on winning in part because they handle the ball every play.
So, Curran had Jones penciled in as his choice -- until this week.
"In order for a quarterback to be unseated by a position player for an MVP, Offensive Player or Rookie of the Year award, that position player has to go off the charts," Curran told co-host Phil Perry on "Patriots Talk. "I think Ja'Marr Chase has done it in the last two weeks. I'm probably going to go with Ja'Marr Chase with my vote."
Jones has put up solid numbers, with a 67.6% completion rate (eighth in the NFL), 3,540 yards (13th) and 21 touchdowns, a rookie franchise record. He's guided the Patriots to a 10-6 record and is only the 13th QB in NFL history to make at least 10 starts in his first season and lead his team to the playoffs.
In Curran's eyes, though, Chase has pulled away from Jones with his play over the last two weeks.
"(Jones) has been a good starting quarterback in his first year," Curran said. "The reason I say Chase, and the reason I changed it now, is in two gotta-have-it games in the last two weeks for the Cincinnati Bengals, Chase has gone for seven and 125 against the Baltimore Ravens in a must-have win for the Bengals in their division, and then the other day he went for 11 catches on 12 targets for 266 with three touchdowns.
"He leads the NFL in yards per catch at over 18. He has 13 touchdown receptions, 79 catches for 1,429 yards, and the Cincinnati Bengals are a team that is headed to the playoffs, yeah, in large part due to Joe Burrow, but he has needed somebody to lean on, and it is a traditionally s--- team that has gotten outstanding play from that position and those two players."
Curran added that Chase's resurgence came around the same time when Jones hit a rough patch over Weeks 13 through 16.
"It does matter how Mac played in the three weeks prior to this game against Jacksonville: Quiet in the most important win of the year against Buffalo -- not his fault, sorry, but still, it reflects things -- and then against both Indianapolis and Buffalo in the rematch, he wasn't that great."
Check out Curran and Perry's full debate, as well their picks for NFL MVP (Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers?), Coach of the Year (Mike Vrabel?) and more in the Patriots Talk podcast, or watch on YouTube below.