Another week down and three more to go. At this point in the year, who could’ve guessed the division leaders right now? Now, there are always the obvious teams like the Patriots, the Broncos or the Packers but even in the NFC North, the Vikings were going into this week leading the division. Some of the teams I’m talking about are the teams in the NFC East all tied for first (Redskins, Eagles, Giants), the top 3 teams in the AFC South which consists of the Jaguars being a game out of first place held by the Colts and the Texans. It should also be noted that the Jaguars have one of the best high powered offenses in the NFL. The Jags just put up 51 points against the Colts and now it seems like they have a legitimate shot at winning the division. The AFC West, which is only a two game lead at this point, separating the 10-3 Denver Broncos and 8-5 Kansas City Chiefs. At the beginning of the season, it had seemed like the Broncos were going to run away with the division but the Chiefs, starting the season 1-5, have found a groove and have won a whopping seven games in a row. It’s not like the Chiefs have played nobody in those seven games, the Chiefs have gone 4-0 in division games and have beaten the Steelers, Bills, and Lions during that span.
The Panthers are still undefeated and it does not seem like anyone is going to stop them. they are 13-0 and there is a very high chance that they can maintain a perfect season heading into the playoffs. The rest of the teams that they will play include the New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons (Who they just beat 38-0), and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Some may argue that the Panthers have had a schedule that is considered a cake walk but how can you argue with a team that have not lost a regular season game dating back to November 30th of last season. The Panthers have been 17-0 in regular season games since then. Say what you want, 13-0 is still 13-0.
What’s happening in Denver? It’s nothing to be too alarmed about but people should take notice. Before I discuss the Broncos further it would help if I said that this year in the NFL has been a very bizarre one at the least and match-ups have continued to trick and fool us again and again. Like this one. So, how do the Broncos go from upsetting the Patriots perfect season a couple weeks ago at home, to losing an embarrassing game to the Oakland Raiders? Statistically, the Broncos won that game but one part of the stat line can make or break a game for a team and that is the turnover category. The Broncos turned the ball over twice against the Raiders and failed to score a single touchdown with what some Denver fans may say was a revamped offense now that Osweiler is starting at QB. Like it was stated above, don’t be alarmed about this loss but don’t be surprised if the Broncos drop another game like this one.
Now, on to the main topic of this article, the studs and the duds. Just remember that sometimes a stud may be on a losing team and a dud may be on winning team, not likely, but it happens. These players either performed at an elite level or gave an embarrassing output this past week.
Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders: It is rare that you will find a defensive player in these types of articles so Khalil Mack would’ve had to have performed so great this week that he was the player everybody was talking about Monday. In fact, he did perform great this week, excellent perhaps. Mack recorded 7 total tackles against the Broncos on Sunday and 5 sacks. You read that right, 5 sacks. On one of his sacks, he forced QB Brock Osweiler to fumble the ball and force a safety on the play and bring the Raiders within 3 points of tying the game. They wouldn’t stay down for long, four minutes later, Derek Carr eased a pass to tight end Mychal Rivera for a touchdown to put Oakland up 15-12 and eventually win the game. The Raiders season is just about finished considering the playoff picture for the AFC, but this has been a successful season for the Raiders and it should be noted that this is a team to watch out for in 2016.
Doug Baldwin/ Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks: It’s not that I have ignored Baldwin these past couple of weeks, I’ve just been praising the way Russell Wilson has been producing on offense. Baldwin has 8 receiving touchdowns in the past three weeks, including Sunday. This is an insane amount of production that everyone figures won’t last that long but after Sunday I just had to pay tribute, not only to Baldwin, but to his fellow teammate Tyler Lockett. On Sunday, both receivers combined for 12 receptions and totaled 186 passing yards, which is 15.5 yards per reception. The duo also combined to score 5 touchdowns against the Ravens. This Seattle team is rolling through to the playoffs and if Wilson and his receivers can continue this streak, there’s no telling what might happen in the playoffs. Remember, sometimes it’s not the best teams who move on, it’s whoever is hottest.
Eli Manning, New York Giants: There was no quarterback better on Monday than Eli Manning. This is because there was only one another quarterback to compare to, but the argument can be made to say that he was a top 3 quarterback this week and the numbers he produced against the Dolphins is convincing. Manning was an outstanding 27/31 passing, which is an 87% completion rating. Those 27 completions ended up falling for 337 yards and 4 touchdowns. It should be noted that he also spread the ball out well, completing his passes to eight different players on Monday. His stats aren’t the only element of his game that landed him as a stud for the week, it is the way he is leading his team through the final part of the season. A lot of people, including me, didn’t believe the Giants could win any of their last four games but now they have one win with three to play including next week against the undefeated Panthers. Can Eli Manning play spoiler this season? It might be possible.
Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys: What can be said about Dez Bryant this week? Not much, in fact, he was targeted only five times and recorded one reception for nine yards. This isn’t the only the game that Bryant has failed to meet expectations. In eight games this season, Bryant has been held under 65 yards receiving seven times and only has two touchdown receptions.One of those touchdowns was a desperation toss up type play that was bobbled around for a second and it fell into his hands. His season high in catches so far this season is a disappointing 5. Since the foot injury and Tony Romo’s two collarbone injuries, this whole season has been a dud for the all-pro wide receiver and will likely stay the same until next season.
Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos: Brock Osweiler completed 35 passes on Sunday for 308 yards. You’d expect hearing that stat line and believe that Sanders probably had some decent numbers on the day. That was definitely not the case this week. Sanders caught a total of 2 passes for just 17 yards. He was outperformed by 5 of his fellow teammates in the passing game including the backup running back Juwan Thompson who filled in for C.J. Anderson this week. That’s not all, he also muffed a punt that would lead to the Raiders scoring a game winning touchdown in the opening of the fourth quarter. Surely, Sanders can easily bounce back from this performance, but for now he’ll be a dud for the week.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: Well, it’s about time I got to Matt Ryan. The veteran quarterback has been struggling the past few weeks including his performance against the Panthers on Sunday. He completed 22 of his 34 passes for 224 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. It’s not just Ryan either that has been struggling. Remember that one guy who was the running back for the Falcons 5 weeks ago? His name is Devonta Freeman and he has been quiet since his week 10 BYE. Ryan can be to blame because without a consistent quarterback, it is very difficult to get the rest of the offense going. Matt Ryan is a true top 10 quarterback who’s veteran experience can help his team get better and with a better offensive line, the Falcons offense will prosper.
*Comment down below any opinions, suggestions or questions you have about the article. You can even put your studs and duds from this week as well! Share and stay tuned for next week!*