The Cincinnati Bengals and the New England Patriots are returning to the NFL playoffs.
The Patriots are returning after a one-year absence while the Bengals are back in the playoffs after six seasons.
Despite those differences, both teams benefitted from the stellar seasons of their rookies.
Quarterback Mac Jones played like a veteran out of the University of Alabama while Ja’Marr Chase picked up where he left off from Louisiana State University.
They did not need an adjustment period to thrive in the pros.
But given their contributions to their respective squads, who among them deserves to win Offensive Rookie of the Year?
The Case For Mac Jones
That the Patriots acquired Jones with the 15th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft is still a mystery.
But while he was the fifth quarterback selected, his numbers dwarf those of his counterparts.
As of Week 17, he leads all rookie quarterbacks in passing yards (3,540), touchdown passes (21), and completion percentage (67.6).
He is also second in completions (332), average yards per completion (7.2), and passer rating (92.5).
— Alabama Rydeouts (@MarvinBama16) January 2, 2022
More importantly, he helped the Patriots to a 10-6 record with one game left to play.
They still have a chance to win the AFC East, but clinching a playoff berth is already a tremendous achievement in his first year.
It’s not that he’s managing the game for the Patriots.
Instead, Jones also had his flashes of brilliance throughout the regular season.
Mac Jones today
3 Pass TD
Someone just broke through the rookie wall pic.twitter.com/aNprqjZ67b
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) January 2, 2022
He has had two 300-yard games, which were both wins.
The rookie also had games wherein he completed over 80 percent of his passes.
After struggling to run the Patriots’ offense in their first six games, he became a catalyst for the team’s seven-game winning streak that brought them to playoff contention.
The Case For Ja’Marr Chase
Two 200-yard games in one season alone are enough credentials to merit a nomination.
But Chase is already one of the league’s best receivers during his first season with the Bengals.
He has the fourth-most receiving yards through Week 17 with 1,429, while his 18.1 yards per catch ranks first among wideouts with at least 30 receptions.
His 13 touchdown catches lag only Cooper Kupp’s 15, and his 622 yards after the catch is third-best this season.
JA'MARR CHASE 72-YARD TD! #RuleTheJungle
— NFL (@NFL) January 2, 2022
Putting his numbers under the rookie perspective makes them more impressive.
His 266-yard, three-touchdown performance in Week 17 against the Kansas City Chiefs puts him within striking distance of some rookie records.
He already has the most receiving yards by a rookie in the Super Bowl era, a record previously held by former LSU teammate Justin Jefferson.
However, he needs just 45 yards to break the all-time rookie record set by the Houston Oilers’ Bill Groman in 1960.
Ja’Marr Chase leads the NFL with 872 receiving yards vs single coverage 👀 pic.twitter.com/1iZvaF1vwZ
— PFF (@PFF) January 4, 2022
The 266 yards is also the most in a single game by a rookie, topping Jerry Butler’s 255 yards in 1979.
The 13 touchdowns are second-most by a rookie, with Randy Moss owning the record with 17.
Likewise, he only needs 12 yards in Week 18 to break the Bengals single-season franchise record set by Chad Johnson in 2007.
Who Deserves It More?
No offense to Jones, but Chase deserves to be Offensive Rookie of the Year because he’s on a historic pace.
It’s not that the Patriots quarterback doesn’t impact the team’s success.
Instead, the Bengals might not be AFC North champions without their rookie wide receiver.
charvarius ward hit the griddy just to get mossed by Jamarr Chase 2 plays later lol pic.twitter.com/hPz4Nliw2Q
— MF⚜️(expecting another playoff loss) (@GOATED_WF) January 2, 2022
Jones deserves the credit in sending New England back to the playoffs, but it’s hard to take the spotlight away from their defense.
Last year, Justin Herbert won the award even if Jefferson deserved the recognition.
This time, the wideout should have the edge over the quarterback.