ROY battle heats up on both sides

As the NFL midseason awards are being doled out across the Internet, I’m intrigued by the Rookie of the Year race.

Despite the loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, I have to believe Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is leading the way, outdistancing No. 1 overall pick and Cincinnati Bengals starter Joe Burrow. It’s just unfortunate the Bolts (2-6) continue to undo Herbert’s splendid performances.

Through Week 9, Herbert ranks second all-time among rookie quarterbacks with his 67.29 completion percentage. He’s thrown for 17 touchdowns halfway through the season, and the record for a rookie is 27, set by Baker Mayfield in 2018. Even further, he’s thrown only five interceptions - second lowest (for now) in the history of NFL rookie quarterbacks. If he doubles that he would still rank among the 20 lowest all-time.

So it’s not shocking he’s the odds-on favorite. If you’re able to get -110 somewhere on this kid, jump on it now.

I’m convinced Burrow is a game-changer and will be good for the Bengals in a very tough division. This season is a wash, but looking forward, if the Bengals can bolster their offensive line and he continues to build chemistry with a talented receiving corps, we’re going to see him thrive.

You can get a plus-price on him, and it never hurts to invest on a No. 1 pick when the odds are in your favor. It’s just going to take a late surge by him, and Herbert’s luster to dim.

When it comes to the top defensive rookie, there’s no doubt I’m leaning on Washington Football Team defensive end Chase Young, who has played in seven of Washington’s eight games, and has 20 combined tackles — 16 solo — and ranks second on the team with five tackles for loss. Young is tied for third on the team with four quarterback hits and 3.5 sacks. What’s been impressive most with the second overall pick is that he’s suddenly commanded double-team efforts from offensive lines, which means Washington has a free rusher on the seven-man front.

Only two quarterbacks have won the Offensive Rookie of the Year the past seven seasons, but you can bank on a third winning it this season.

On the heels of Nick Bosa winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year last season, Young is on his way to making it two straight - and three in the last five years - for defensive ends.

Thursday

Colts at Titans -2: Tennessee, all COVID aside, is sitting atop the AFC South with a 6-2 mark at the midway point of the season. This is a balanced offense that is tough to defend, with Ryan Tannehill manning the passing game and Derrick Henry running roughshod through defensive fronts. The Colts aren’t surviving this trip. TITANS

Sunday

Washington at Lions -4: The Lions’ coaching staff tends to overthink things. Detroit opened the season by breaking out on teams, but failed to hold leads. Now the Lions can’t get on track early. Neither issue should come into play against Washington. LIONS

Texans at Browns -3: Dare I say this, but the Browns are in the thick of the playoff race at the midway point at 5-3. Coach Kevin Stefanski has this team playing with confidence. Off a bye week, the Browns should be revitalized with losing teams Houston, Philadelphia and Jacksonville on deck. BROWNS

Jaguars at Packers -13.5: Can you imagine Jacksonville players holding their collective breath Monday, when the Jets led the Patriots? The “Tank for Trevor” campaign has the one-win Jags just shy of winless New York. It was 80 degrees in Jacksonville on Tuesday; it hit a low of 32 in Green Bay. Enough said. PACKERS

Eagles at Giants +3.5: New York is considered by some to be the worst of the horrendous NFC East quartet, but as the season progresses, it’s a team that appears to be improving under coach Joe Judge. Philly should win this game. Given what I’ve seen with this division, I’ll take the home pup. GIANTS

49ers at Saints, Total 50: I don’t know what to say about San Francisco, other than my preseason preview urged you to play its win total under. But, it is only 2 1/2 out in the NFC West, and is 3-1 on the road this season. The only way to challenge New Orleans is with an offensive burst, which is why I have this one earmarked as a shootout. OVER

Last Week: 4-2

Season: 28-22