NFL Roundtable: Does Mac Jones have Offensive Rookie of the Year locked up?
Each week we sit down with TwinSpires columnists Ashley Anderson, Jeremy Jones, and James Scully to discuss the latest news from around the NFL. Today they weigh in on the Offensive Rookie of the Year race, the Bucs' defense, and the battle for AFC supremacy.
Mac Jones now has the second-best completion percentage in the NFL after another dazzling performance in Week 12. Can anyone catch the Pats signal caller in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race?
Ashley: Ja’Marr Chase still has a chance to reel in the award at season’s end, but he’ll need to recapture the magic he displayed in his first seven games of his rookie season. That said, Chase has recorded a pair of touchdown catches in two of his last four games and is tied for second in the league in scoring receptions. He also ranks sixth in receiving yards and is on pace for 1,400 yards at the close of the season. With three of the league’s best pass defenses remaining on Cincinnati’s schedule, Chase will have his work cut out for him, but if he can break free for a couple of big games and find the end zone a few more times, he’ll go neck and neck with Jones in OROY voting.
Jeremy: Ja’Marr Chase is the only realistic player that could catch Mac Jones at this point. However, the last wideout to win this award was Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014, and that season he went for 12 touchdowns in 12 games and averaged 108.8 yards per game. Chase has eight touchdowns through 11 games and is averaging 82.4 yards per game. If the Patriots keep winning and stay in a playoff position, Jones will be a mortal lock to take this award.
James: No. Mac Jones is well on pace to establish a new mark for rookie completion percentage, and his improved play has helped New England rise to the top of the AFC East. With accuracy being his strong suit, Jones leads the most balanced offense in the league – the Patriots do everything well. Jones has his sights set upon a deep playoff run, and he should be a unanimous choice for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Tampa Bay squeaked past Indianapolis on Sunday, but is the Bucs’ defense good enough to win another Super Bowl?
Ashley: Yes. This defense is right where it was last season, when it went on to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. The Bucs rank first against the run (similar to 2020) but allow 247.5 passing yards per game, just one yard more than the team surrendered on average last season. Tampa Bay also ranks fourth in takeaways and forced five Colts turnovers on Sunday. The offensive turnovers (particularly on Tom Brady’s end) have been my greatest concern. If the Bucs can cut back on those, this team has an excellent chance to make another run to the Super Bowl.
Jeremy: I was fortunate enough to witness this game in person on Sunday in Indianapolis, and the Tampa Bay defense certainly has their work cut out for them. Carson Wentz was able to carve up the defense, especially over the middle of the field. However, they forced five turnovers and have forced 23 turnovers on the season, which ranks third in the NFL. They still have the same talent as last year’s championship team, so do not count them out when it matters most.
James: Possibly. Despite being decimated by injuries to their secondary, Tampa Bay has the league's top-ranked run defense. They made enough plays in Sunday’s comeback win at Indianapolis, forcing five turnovers, and the Bucs are getting healthier late in the season. And while Tampa Bay’s defense may not be as formidable as last year, they hope to compensate with more offensive firepower.
The AFC is looking awfully crowded at the top, with Kansas City, Buffalo, New England, and Baltimore all vying for supremacy. Who’s your pick to win the conference championship?
Ashley: New England’s defense is lethal and will be a tough out for any team who faces it in the postseason, but it’s difficult for me to buy into Jones leading his team all the way to a Super Bowl in his rookie season. AFC East foe Buffalo is a prime contender for a title, but just like Brady, Bills quarterback Josh Allen has been plagued by turnover issues recently. In his last four games, Allen has thrown seven of his 10 interceptions this season. If he can clean up his play — which I expect he will — the Bills will be the team to beat in the AFC.
AFC Championship 2021/2022
Sun, January 30 2022, 5:00 PM
Kansas City Chiefs
New England Patriots
Los Angeles Chargers
Jeremy: If I must pick right now, I'm taking the Chiefs because they finally have their defense playing up to their potential. They have only allowed 14.5 points per game over the last six games and won five of those six. However, they still are struggling mightily on the offensive line and will run into a couple of games in January where they will face an abundance of pressure on Patrick Mahomes. Do not count out some other wild cards like the Titans (once healthy), Bengals, and Colts.
James: New England. Along with an elite secondary, New England’s defensive front seven is proving dominant at the right time of the season. They control the line of scrimmage and never miss assignments. I love how the offensive line has come together, allowing New England to run on any opponent, and Mac Jones’ development is something to behold – he’s arguably become the most accurate passer in the AFC. I would bet New England heads-up against any team in the conference.