Entering Week 17, there wasn't much talk about who would win offensive rookie of the year. Mac Jones was a -500 favorite to win the award and it seemed all but locked up. It would have taken something magical to pry the award out of the hands of Jones.
The Cincinnati Bengals had a massive come-from-behind win to knock off the Kansas City Chiefs. As a result of the win, the Bengals clinched the AFC North. The main reason for the win? Ja'Marr Chase posting a ridiculous stat-line that featured 11 receptions on 12 targets, 266 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Following the performance, Chase is now a -200 favorite to win offensive rookie of the year.
Analyzing the two horse race
There are only two players still on the board at BetMGM for offensive rookie of the year. As mentioned above, Chase is the new favorite. As a result, Mac Jones is now a +170 underdog to win the award. If you hold betting tickets on guys like Trevor Lawrence, Najee Harris, Devonta Smith or Justin Fields, you might as well set fire to them.
As the favorite, Chase is certainly deserving. With his video game-esque performance Sunday, Chase set a new record for rookie receiving yards in a season. His 1,429 receiving yards broke the record set by former college teammate Justin Jefferson just last season.
It's been an up and down season for Chase, which should be expected from a rookie. He took the league by storm, compiling 754 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns in his first seven games. He then hit a bit of a rough patch as teams figured him out, posting just 204 yards and 2 touchdowns over his next five games. Chase has regrouped over his last four games, posting 471 yards and 5 touchdowns.
For Mac Jones, it's been a bit of a different story. He's certainly been very solid in his freshman campaign, leading his Patriots back to the playoffs after they missed the postseason last year.
Despite being the betting favorite for most of the season, it always felt like Jones was in that role due to a process of elimination. Trevor Lawrence has been a disappointment of epic proportions. Zach Wilson waited until the last few weeks to show flashes of his ability. Justin Fields is amongst the worst statistical quarterbacks in the league, though he's had very little support around him. Trey Lance has spent the majority of the season on the bench. The second best rookie quarterback might be Davis Mills, a third-round pick with a 2-8 record as a starter.
Jones' numbers are solid, but nothing to write home about. He doesn't compare favorably statistically to recent rookie quarterbacks such as Justin Herbert and Kyler Murray's rookie seasons. Even Baker Mayfield had a better rookie season statistically a few seasons ago despite starting just 13 games.
It felt like Jones was the favorite because there was no other legitimate choice. If someone did something spectacular, he was always prone to being usurped. Chase finally did something amazing in Week 17.
The betting value
When analyzing the MVP prospects of players like Jonathan Taylor or Cooper Kupp, we often warn that it's very unlikely that a non-quarterback wins the award. Thankfully, that's not really the case with offensive rookie of the year.
Sure, the last two winners have been quarterbacks. Justin Herbert won the award last year over Justin Jefferson, but Herbert's season was statistically much superior to the season Mac Jones is having this year.
Since 2013, the offensive rookie of the year has been won by three quarterbacks, four running backs and one wide receiver. Ja'Marr Chase looks to become the first wide receiver to win the award since Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014.
There's recent precedent of a skill position player winning the award over a quarterback. In 2018, Baker Mayfield broke the rookie touchdown passing record at the time in just 13 starts. However, that wasn't enough for him to win the award over Saquon Barkley.
I probably would not bet on Chase to win the award at his current -200 odds. If you're weary of a potential quarterback bias, Jones is not a terrible bet at +170.
It's also worth noting that one week remains in the regular season. There's a good chance the Bengals have nothing to play for in Week 18, so benching Joe Burrow for all or parts of the game is not out of the question. This would obviously impact Chase should he be catching passes from Brandon Allen.
If Jones has another solid game in a win over the Dolphins and Chase posts a dud in Week 18, does that change the outlook for this award? It very well might.
Remember, two days ago, Jones was -500 to win this award and Chase was +350. After a performance where Jones completed 73% of his passes and threw three touchdowns in a game where his team posted 50 points, Jones is now an underdog. This league.